Biblegateway Verse of the Day

God's Favor

By Benjamin H. Liles

          For He says: I heard you in an acceptable time, and I helped you in the day of salvation. Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation. ~ 2 Corinthians 6:2, Holman Christian Standard

          The Psalmist writes, "But as for me, LORD, my prayer to You is for a time of favor. In Your abundant, faithful love, God, answer me with Your sure salvation" (Psalm 69:13, Holman Christian Standard). This writer is pleading with God for His favor in His timing. And then he recounts God's character by saying of Him, "In Your abundant, faithful love." Why is this important? I believe it goes back to getting under God and His sovereignty (making God your ruler, your King). In other words, get to where He is on the throne of your heart. What was that first commandment? "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5, New King James).

          What better way is there to let God know you love Him when you debase (make yourself humble) yourself to the point He has all the glory? Paul, in looking back to the Psalmist's day, is thus essentially saying that God's favor is now. How is that so? Ever since Jesus ascended the hill of Golgotha, the place we call Calvary and died in our place on the cross salvation has been here for all of us. Yes, it took place almost two thousand years ago, but ever since He rose from the tomb and ascended into Heaven, His mercy, grace, and salvation have been ours. All it takes is humbling ourselves. Which leads me to that verse. "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14, American King James).

          We are His! In another verse, Paul writes, "And those He predestined He also called, those He called He also justified, those He justified He also glorified" (Romans 8:30, Berean Study). So, God in His goodness knows who belongs to Him, even before we do belong to Him! this is another way we know God is who He claims to be: He knows it all! Everything about us, and He still takes us as we are, demonstrates His unending love toward us. But it doesn't mean we continue living a sinful life.  Rather, since His day has come, the day in which God's Kingdom came near, and we can now freely receive adoption into His family, we can celebrate life everlasting with Him over remaining separated from Him. Oh, the depths of His love! And yet at the same time, we need to realize we must give up our old lives, our old way of thinking, acting, behaving, and living to allow Him the right to work salvation out in and through us.

          Father, I thank You for how holy and just You truly are! In Your love towards me, You spared me Your wrath, which was due me. You loved me so much You put Your Son in my place, on the cross. I thank and praise You for this. I know it's nothing to do with who I am or what I have done, for this gift You gave has nothing to do with my character or my works. Rather, You did this to prove who You are to me. You did that so I may glorify in You, that I may honor and uphold You and Your majesty. I do so now, and forever will I keep on. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Time Alone

By Benjamin H. Liles

          And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. ~ Matthew 14:23, New King James

          When I say what I do it has nothing to do with the hit or miss nature I had going on this month. It has been rather hectic considering I have been working also for UPS as a seasonal helper. And it kind of goes along with the point I'm about to make. We all need time alone with those we love. God, since He redeemed us through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus, should always be at the forefront of our lives. He has all priority. 

          I know. We all have our lives to live. We have families, children, business to attend and the like. But what about those times when we are so tired we need time alone with Him? Does He truly take center stage in your life? I have to admit I don't always have the luxury of making time for Him. He deserves it, however. All those times I need Him and His help, had I given Him a few extra minutes He would have helped me through with far more grace and ease.

          I preach a great deal on my blog. Today is a different day as we start to head off into a new year. I felt today's verse was important. Jesus was always about His father's business: healing people, helping them with their faith, extending His love and mercy. He needed time alone with His Father just as we need to spend time with Him. Remember, "Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you" (John 15:4, 7, Holman Christian Standard).

          For me, it stands out that not only did the Messiah spend time alone with God the Father, and not only did He do those things He saw the Father doing, but He took the time alone with the Father to reflect on those things He was about to do. Mark tells us, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45, New American Standard). At the end of Jesus' earthly life did He do all the Father commanded Him?

          I believe He did. Why else could He claim, before giving up His Spirit, "It is finished" (John 19:30)? All that time alone with the Father helped Jesus prepare for the greatest feat He accomplished. He not only redeemed us from death and Hell, not only saving us from the wrath to come, but He gave us access to the Father we never had before. Look at what He said to the disciples, "But I tell you the truth, it is for your benefit that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7, Berean Study).

          So, there it is. That's why Jesus spent time alone with the Father when He could. It was so He could offer Himself up on our behalf, standing between God and us, reconciling us to Him. And furthermore, without His being offered up on our behalf, we wouldn't have access to Him through His Spirit. Notice what He calls the Spirit: the Advocate. What does a good defense lawyer do, but to advocate for us on our behalf? Without the Spirit, we have no way of having a prayer life with the Father. Paul wrote, "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8:26, New American Standard).

          Finally, there is the answer for being alone, truly, with the Father and Jesus. When we humble ourselves, telling God how far we are from Him, He will speak to us. He will restore to us our joy. He is our peace; our Salvation, which Jesus provided for us. Our prayer life with Him is a showing of our gratitude, our worship, and praise of all He is, what He has done, and takes the focus off us to Him. It lets Him know He is our Center, our life. Without Him, we can do nothing.

          Father, I thank You at all times for giving me the words You have. I am not always strong enough, and to be honest, I'm never strong. I sin. I do it daily, whether small or large. I have unclean lips, and an unclean heart. Help me in my weakness. Be my strength. Help me where I cannot express myself toward You. Show me what it means to live for You. I want to be the kind of sacrifice that shows others my life and love for You. You redeemed and saved me by Jesus' death. Show me the way to go so I can show others the same love You have given me. Your mercy and grace are all I need. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Standing in the Gap

By Benjamin H. Liles

          Hallelujah (Praise the Lord)! Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His mercy (faithful love, steadfast love, loving kindness, loyal love, grace, ) endures forever (is everlasting, is to eternity, exists forever). ~ Psalm 106:1

           While I could break up this message into a number of messages, I think it would benefit all to keep it in this one. So, what is the psalmist saying here? He is remembering what the Lord has done for him and for his people, that much can be gained. But there is far more. He continues after this first verse to explain the majesty and depth of God's faithfulness and deep love for His people - Israel. 

          We read: 

               "Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Who can declare all His praise? Blessed are those who keep justice, and he who does righteousness at all times! Remember me, O Lord, with the favor You have toward Your people. Oh, visit me with Your salvation, that I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, that I may glory with Your inheritance. We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly. 
Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; they did not remember the multitude of Your mercies, but rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea" (Psalm 106:2-7).

          This writer of this psalm remembers fully well of what His Lord did for the people of Israel. He may not have lived since the time of the Exodus, but that tradition of telling and passing on what the Lord did to Egypt at the Red Sea is kept fully before Him. He explains that Israel was wicked and rebelled even at the Sea where God made Himself mightily known on behalf of His people. He worked a miracle on their behalf to spare them from death and destruction. And in that way also brought destruction on those who dared to do them harm. 

          The Psalmist continues on: 

               "Nevertheless, He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power known. He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it dried up; so He led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. He saved them from the hand of him who hated them and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. The waters covered their enemies; there was not one of them left. Then they believed His words; they sang His praise. They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert" (vs. 8-14).

          God delivered Israel from her enemies to make Himself known. He didn't do it just for them to show Himself off to other nations, which He most certainly did, but He did it to make Himself known to them. He was showing the nation of Israel His strong hand. Those who hated Israel, Egypt, were swallowed up in victory by God. 

          Sometime in the year 2000, evidence was found of Chariots and wheels in the Red Sea.

          And here as well -- 

          Still, the Psalmist declares that after these things, while in the desert of the wilderness Israel both lusted exceedingly and tested their God. So, what happened? We're told - 

               "And He gave them their request but sent leanness into their soul. When they envied Moses in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the Lord, the earth opened up and swallowed Dathan, and covered the faction of Abiram. A fire was kindled in their company;  the flame burned up the wicked.
They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped the molded image. Thus they changed their glory into the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, awesome things by the Red Sea" (vs. 15-22).

          Those who conspired to lead Israel into wickedness and rebellion against God Almighty, they were swallowed up by the earth, which God caused to open up. Yes, He is a loving and merciful God, but let us not be quick to forget that in His righteousness He is both just and right to judge as He does. His name is I AM after all. He has always been, always will be, and will ever be. He may be Jehovah, but He is first and foremost Yahweh and Adonai in relationship to us. 

          The Psalmist continues on: 

               "Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them. Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His word, but complained in their tents, and did not heed the voice of the Lord. Therefore He raised His hand in an oath against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness, to overthrow their descendants among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands. They joined themselves also to Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices made to the dead. Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds, and the plague broke out among them. Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stopped" (vs.23-30). 

          God had just given to Moses His laws. He looked down from the mountain where He walked and talked with Moses, saw their rebellion against Him and in His anger took some of the Israelites down. And yet Moses stood in the gap for Israel. It was as if God was testing Moses to see if he could see His heart for Israel. My point for this can be seen in part of Daniel's prayer for understanding how long Israel would be in slavery to Babylon for her crimes against God. 

          We read there, "Now, therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name" (Daniel 9:17-19).

          I could go through all of Psalm 106 to keep proving my point that God listens to those who are right with Him. That people need to stand with Him and pray for healing for the people, to bring His holy name glory. It isn't just Israel God is King over, but this whole world. He created it all. He desires for us to give Him glory. He desires to bless us. But before He can do so, we need to humble ourselves. We need to see ourselves as He does. While He doesn't look at us as if to condemn us, neither does He look at us wishing. He desires of us to desire Him. We need to be like the Prodigal, realizing we are far from home. He is our daddy. He desires to restore and revive us. But first, we have to realize we are in error. Not Him. We are. Only then can we be the people who He will accept as being fully His.

          Father, I come before You seeing my need in You. You are who You are. I am nothing but sinful, proud, arrogant, and unworthy of Your love. You are far above me, but also ever near me. Ever since You sent Your Son to die in my place, Your kingdom has been near. I not only thank You for this but also see how willing You are in making me Your child. I praise and worship You for this. Change my unclean mouth and heart to being clean and pure. Help me to stand in the gap for others as did Abraham, as did Moses, as did Paul and Peter too. I thank You for making me Your child; for loving me enough to also be my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Eyewitnesses to Majesty

By Benjamin H. Liles

          For we did not follow cleverly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. ~ 2 Peter 1:16, Berean Study Bible

          If I were to tell you of the power Jesus the Messiah held within His life, I would also have to tell you still of His power while He's in Heaven as well. Peter gives us a reminder of the fact that he was one of those men who beheld the majesty of Jesus while He lived among them. In Matthew, we're told Jesus said to him and his brother Andrew, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19, New King James). What immediately happens is that both Peter and Andrew "immediately left their nets and followed Him" (Matthew 4:20). 

          Then the same thing happens with James and John, the sons of Zebedee (Matthew 4:21-22). What is it about this man Jesus that simple men follow Him and do His will? Why did they follow a man who was to suffer and die at the hand of others? "For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him" we're told in Isaiah 53:2.

          I believe what Isaiah is talking about in that one simple verse is that Jesus grew up before God "like a tender root." Because of the laws, the so-called Pharisees held on to Jesus was going to come up as "a root out of parched ground." There's no beauty about Jesus initially. He didn't come advocating a worldview that agreed with those who sought after God conquering His enemies. No, rather Jesus came to die for the sins of many. It is why in the next verse in Isaiah we read "He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him" (Isaiah 53:3, New American Standard).

          It comes to me that we behold a majestic power in Jesus as He came from the Father and He also returned to Him. He is sat on the throne once again, but this time He has conquered the grave, death, and Hell. Jesus has the keys to life. And as He told Peter, "Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means 'rock'), and upon this rock, I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it" (Matthew 16:18, New Living Translation).

          The reason we believe what the gospel writers testified about, the reason we believe the words of Peter, is that they were from men who had firsthand knowledge of Jesus. They walked and talked with Him. They saw Him lifted up and crucified. Aside from Peter, John saw the stone rolled away from the tomb, which had once sealed Jesus within (see John 20:1-18). If we recall Jesus said to the disciples, "The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and after three days He will rise" (Mark 9:31, Matthew 16:21).

          Either Jesus, who eleven men followed and learned from him (remember Judas hung himself and thus died), was a liar and is to be discounted, or the power the disciples had after Jesus ascended into Heaven due to the Spirit having descended upon them (see Acts 2:4) is a testimony of the risen Messiah. I choose to believe the eyewitness testimony of men who beheld Jesus. Why would they lie? If they did then Christianity is a dead religion. And along with that Christ's Church would hold no power on this planet. But it does and we do because we belong to Him. So, I say validate the claim these men make within the confines of scripture. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15, New American Standard).

          Father, I ask that You keep using the words You give to me to put Your life into others who so desperately need You. They are tired of going without water. Cause the water of life to come streaming out of them, just as Jesus said, "To the one who believes in Me, it is just as the Scripture has said: 'Streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7:38, Isaiah 44:3). We all need You, Lord. Allow us to behold You and Your majesty. Allow us the right to be light bearers of the truth that Your Son sets men free from sin and death. For we desire to be Yours and only Yours. Darkness and light have no fellowship with one another (see 2 Corinthians 6:14), so keep us from being bound together with this world. For those of us who love and want You, keep us from being tainted by this present age. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Your Witness Matters

By Benjamin H. Liles

          But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. ~ 1 Peter 3:15, New King James

          Your own personal testimony of how Jesus set you free from sin and death is an important one. Peter is saying essentially, "But ·respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have in godly fear and humility" (Expanded Bible rendition). An example is my own.

          I have always had head knowledge that our Lord and Savior came to set me free from sin and death, but I didn't know what that meant to me on a personal level. I didn't understand He wanted a relationship with me, period. I was under the penalty of the law, which says that I have disobeyed God as I was following other things than Him. I lusted after women, money, and the likes. It wasn't until I realized I lacked His grace and mercy that I had a sense there was more to life than simply going through life.

          While I came to Jesus shortly after I was married to my wife, Tanya, December 17, 2009, it wasn't until December 24, 2009, I was baptized. I thought that years ago I had accepted the Messiah as mine, but in reality, I only accepted a form of Jesus. In a way, I made Jesus an idol. An idol is something you make within either your head or with your hands. I worshiped a form of Jesus who simply died for me. I didn't understand He did more than that. What the Laws of Moses does is point out where we miss God. Jesus fulfills God's commands to the fullest. His death makes it possible to have access to the Father. I see that now since I have truly been made right with Him.

          So, the result is I started this blog as I sensed an urgency that there are those in life who struggle with the same things I do. We all struggle with certain addictions, such as hate, lust, disobedience, and all it entails. And here's the thing - Jesus paid for it all by taking the punishment that rightfully belongs to us. If you ever read His words to the disciples about how to pray, He uses the words, "forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us" (Matthew 6:12, The Lord's Prayer).

          Jesus explains to everyone within the gospel stories what this good news is: The kingdom of God has come near. I wrote this in the article titled The Purpose of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, "Numerous prophets in the Old Testament not only told of a Messiah who would come and conquer the world but also told of a suffering servant who would die on our behalf (Isaiah quickly comes to mind). But look also at the Levitical laws, in the book of Leviticus. Passages that say, 'And an unblemished lamb, without defect or spot, will be slaughtered for the sins of the people' (my paraphrase, Exodus 12:5)."

           In all the articles I have written, and you can find all of them on this website, I always give more than one scripture reference as to how Jesus fulfilled the Laws and the Prophets and the Writings that are given in the Jewish scriptures. Just as much as I have once put down the Messiah, all of us do. Jesus said we would do that because we don't know Him, kind of like you wouldn't know me as we aren't friends. Until we decide He's worth knowing we treat Him as though He's the enemy. 

          Let me ask you this, would you want to hurt a doctor who removed a cancerous tumor from you? Could you hate someone who wanted to know you well enough to take care of that? One last question on that line: Would you do everything you could if that same doctor took your cancer and bore it on your behalf, so no one else would die from it? That's what Jesus did on the cross. He removed from us the source that contaminates our hearts. He gives to us what is already His. He has power to heal and that is His grace. We can live in that and also extending that to others as well.

          Your unique story which can impact someone else to live for Jesus is going to be different from mine. You may have to suffer for it and even pay for it with your life. This world is at odds with Jesus because it doesn't recognize Him as Lord and Savior. It cannot comprehend Him, not one bit. So, think about how Jesus touched you and your life. How would you want the Father to hold you when it comes to influencing someone else in their life? We need to do those things. Jesus did it for us.

          Father, I thank You always for the ability I have to give others life as You have given to me. I ask that I always have the words needed to give others. If these people You call to be Yours need prayer, allow them to leave a comment so I can pray for them. More than anything Lord, they need a Savior as much as I needed one myself. Help them to know Jesus, Your Son, as I have. Allow them to see the man who bore their sins, their disease, at the cross, allowing them to be made whole as well as to have access to You. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Shepherdic Visitation

By Benjamin H. Liles

          Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. ~ Luke 2:10, New King James Bible

           I often wonder how many times in life we all get good news. You just got that job you wanted, or you had enough money to buy that car, or maybe you come home and your wife tells you, "Hon, we're going to have a child." We all love good news. I don't know of one person who gets excited over bad news. 

          What's interesting in this passage of scripture is an angel is sent to certain shepherds keeping watch over sheep in the fields. This announcement is made to them, "Do not be afraid, for look, I bring great news of a great joy which will be to all people. This day in the city of David there is born to you and all the people, who is the Anointed One the Lord. And this is the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger" (Luke 2:11-12).

           I love the symbolism, personally. An angel has come to shepherds who had kept watch over their flocks all night to bring this announcement of good news. For the pastor of a church who feeds his congregation, who rules over in righteousness and in God's holiness, well past the midnight hour and is slowly getting sleepy keeping their flock safe and secure from the evil one--Jesus is good news indeed.

          What does Jesus say of himself? "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so, I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd" (John 10:7-9, 11, 14-16). 

          It seems that even at our Messiah's birth God was in the business of showing Himself to those who were right with Him, listening well, keeping careful watch over what He charged them to do. That's why these shepherds were singled out. They were to be witnesses of God having come near to mankind. 

          For what does God's word say? "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:5-11). 

          So, then, Jesus who has always been equal and with God took it upon Himself and made Himself lower than the angels, becoming a slave (that's what a bondservant is), being found in the likeness of man. Why go through all this trouble? Going back over scripture we see this theme that man is God's crowning achievement. And since God gave authority to man, even though man gave his authority to one who only came to destroy the works of God, God still found something redeemable in him.

           Jesus has this answer. Let's look again at what He's saying in John 10: "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. Therefore My Father loves Me because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father" (vs. 10, 12-13, 17-18).

          In other words, there are certain people in the religious setting who seem to be righteous and holding fast to a form of spirituality. But look at what happens. A wolf appears, most likely a false prophet. Rather than enduring and taking care of His flock, this "man of God" runs off to only save his backside, and not helping out his fellow congregants any longer. So what happens to those people? They get destroyed due to two things: one is that this man does not care about the people. The other is that at the first sign of trouble, he flees.

          Those who are truly followers of Jesus, watching, praying, and guiding those they are in the care of doing so out of joy. They deem themselves of equal partnership with the risen Lord to do as He did, laying down their lives even to the death so that others may have life. Jesus is the fulfillment of a host of prophecies. And since He was equal to God from the beginning, even though He humbled Himself to take our punishment so our sins would no longer remain, He cancelled out our debts we have with the Father.

          Father, thank You for all that You show me. How those who truly care for You and Your word will stick it out with You. That those who are Yours will rule righteously and holy just as You are in order that others will see You as they already do. Just as these men who were tending their flocks the night Jesus was born, You were showing us that He would lead others with the same great care and even more so than those in power. You did it in gentleness and in mercy. You could have come and conquered every last man, woman, and child that night. Yet, You put off Your glory, came down into human form, to cleanse us all from all filth. I praise You for this. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

A Godly Relationship

By Benjamin H. Liles

          He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” ~ Matthew 16:15-16, New King James

          One of my favorite bands of all times is the Christian group named Petra. No, they aren't named after the fabled rock city south of Israel, where Edom use to lie. Rather, the founder of the group chose the name Petra as it means "rock." How do you secure a house? Do you build it on sand or on a rock foundation? Jesus tells us, "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall" (Matthew 7:26, 27, New King James) in a parable about the wise and foolish builder.

          What does this have to do with building a relationship with Jesus the Messiah? I believe it has everything to do with being in a relationship with Him. Look at his conversation with the disciples:

          "When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
            So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:13, 14). 

          We have a lead into the question Jesus asks the disciples about who they believe He is. Peter is the voice of the group, more or less. But because of Peter's answer let's look at what Jesus tells him, "
Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosened in heaven.”

           Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ" (Matthew 16:17-20). 

          I honestly believe each one of us can and will have a relationship with the risen Lord, Jesus the Messiah of Nazareth. If you wonder why I keep saying "Messiah," it is simply because Christ is Greek and means "Messiah." The Hebrew word for Messiah is Maschiach. What does Messiah mean? The definition of Messiah is Anointed One. Why is it used to talk about Jesus? From where did He come from?

          "In Judaism, Messiah (Hebrew: מָשִׁיחַ‎, translit. māšîaḥ‎; Greek: χριστός, translit. khristós, lit. 'anointed, covered in oil') is a title for a savior and liberator of the Jewish people. The concept of messianism originated in Judaism, and in the Hebrew Bible, a messiah is a king or High Priest traditionally anointed with holy anointing oil" (Messiah in Judaism). And not only do we receive a herald of Jesus' ancestry from David (see Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38), we are told exactly how he is "anointed;" "After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him" (Matthew 3:16, Holman Christian Standard).

           Because we are told over and over again how much the Bible forefathers of our faith exercised their relationship with God the Father, we can do the same even though we have access to Him through the Son. Those men of renown, which we hold dear, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they looked forward to the promise of the coming future King. Since Jesus of Nazareth, our Anointed Savior, was also born under the curse of the Law we no longer perish under the effects of the Mosaic Law.

           Ever since His ascension into Heaven His Church has been His representative of Him since He promised He would come again. What did the angel say to the men who watched after Jesus departed? "Men of Galilee," they said, "Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11, Berean Study).

          So we have a relationship with the One who gave His life for our sins. When He died at Calvary under the Law, this act fulfilled and finalized God's Old Covenant with Israel. It was a final act He had Abraham perform many years before. The lamb that was found and offered up in Isaac's place has been fulfilled in the Messiah Jesus. He gave His life as a ransom for many. And for this reason, it is why the Church still exists, until He calls for His bride to come home to Him.

          Father, I know in my sin, which are many, I am unable to come before You. And yet in Your holiness, You set apart Your Son to atone for me. You did this so I can come before You. You did so in order I may behold Your Priest Jesus, my Savior. He isn't just Your Anointed or begotten. Jesus is the same as You. He did those things because He saw You doing them beforehand. He did Your will. As a result, since I am being conformed to Your likeness I can do Your will as well. It's not so much that I am doing Your commands, but it's Your Spirit in me that does: both in faith as well as in obedience. Thank You for the gift of Yourself into my life. Keep changing me from the inside of my heart, flowing outward to others in love. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

The God Who Saves

By Benjamin H. Liles

And speaking of the prophet Daniel, Darius said this of Daniel's God: "I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions" (Daniel 6:26, 27, NIV).

It's funny to see that people from ancient times, rulers, who acknowledged and feared God (even if just for a time) to protect and serve the people under them (like the prophet Daniel). Yet, sadly, today, too many people claim God isn't real; that somehow God doesn't exist, that He is too far off, that He cannot save. While Christianity grows and blossomed since the death and resurrection of Christ, the spirit of this age is growing in power as well, showing the sign of the time coming close to the end. Atheism is on the rise.

Christ said of these days, "When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes" (Matthew 24: 37-39, NLT).

I mean in all honesty in thinking on this, people will hand themselves over to lies, to believing more in lies than in the truth. God is the truth, found in Jesus Christ who heals and saves from sin, sickness, disease and death. Trusting yourself to believe in lies, in this present day, is akin to mocking that Jesus Christ will not return, that no judgment will befall on this nation of America or even of this world. There is good news, though! Jesus is coming back! He said He would! Just as when Noah entered the ark and was spared from the flood and its waters, so shall those who trust in Christ also be spared and saved!

Paul said this,"Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused" (Romans 1:21, NLT). By not acknowledging God and His sovereignty, we basically say we don't believe Him or the promises He gave. When He says He will come back, He will. As scripture says, "I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith" (Luke 18:8, NLT)?

We need to have faith, to believe God isn't just real and true, but that He delivers on His promises! He gave us His Son, not just so we can come before the Father in faith, but so that by the death and resurrection of the Son we have forgiveness, redemption and a right standing with God. A true follower of Christ will look and uphold God's integrity, standing on the word, and doing what Jesus Christ commanded: extending the gospel, giving love, and taking care of one another. We should be about the Father's business until He comes back to receive us all unto Himself.

The Gospel Explained

By Benjamin H. Liles

          Look to the mountains-- the feet of one bringing good news and proclaiming peace! Celebrate your festivals, Judah; fulfill your vows. For the wicked one will never again march through you; he will be entirely wiped out. ~ Nahum 1:15, Holman Christian Standard

          Paul said, when addressing the church in Rome, "And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" (Romans 10:15, Berean Study). To make this as strong a point, in a brief message, Paul is saying that the words which he uses are to help in bringing salvation. And at the same time he's reminding us of One who came and gave that good news first.

          It started with a man who walked the dusty streets of Israel for three years. He was an itinerant preacher, a man of God. He stood up for the downcast, the outcast, the broken-hearted, the diseased, and the plagued. Everywhere He went life-changing things happened: the blind received sight, the lame walked, He announced the good news, which is "The Kingdom of Heaven is come near!" (see Isaiah 35:5, Matthew 10:7, and Matthew 11:5). This man was Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Son of God.

          But really, in this portion of Romans, Paul is talking about how Israel rejected the gospel. Those that Jesus truly came to restore was ALL of Israel and not merely a few people here and there. How much more different would it have been had everyone believed and been saved from sin and death? But the truth is that not everyone would respond to the gospel of Jesus the Messiah.

          When He came it was to suffer under the Law. It was to put on display sin and death, making them foot stoold for His feet. He now holds the keys to death and Hell. It is why He told Peter, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:18-19, Berean Study).

          As Christians we have a right standing with Jesus and the Father. Those who refuse to hear His words, and allow Him the right into their lives refuse to have a relationship with the One who gave them life. These are not only handed over to sin and death, but in a manner of speaking are bound over until the fullness of His Church are come in. At which time He will return and get His elect, thus coming back to judge the nations.

          Friends, time is short and the time is now. We never know, truly, when the Lord is coming back. We need to be ready in our faith, to endure the trials that are now here and even coming. some of us will endure to the end, and others will lose their footing. But we shall all see Him coming on the clouds. Can and will you endure? I believe you can. The gospel which saves also keeps us in Him. As Jesus once said, "and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:28, New American Standard).

          Father, I thank You for Your holiness. It shows me I need to be holy as You are. It means I need to not watch and walk in the ways this world does. I am now made new in You and Your ways. You sent Your Son to heal and forgive. To me it means I not only have access to You, but I can know You and walk with You. I want this all the time. Even when I misstep I praise and worship you. Your ways are far better than mine. You are ever near in times when I need You. And I will always be in need of You. Thank You. I love You. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Why God Destroys

By Benjamin H. Liles

          Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel, and donkey.’ ~ 1 Samuel 15:2-3, New King James

          Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows be made, fifty cubits high, and in the morning suggest to the king that Mordecai be hanged on it; then go merrily with the king to the banquet.” And the thing pleased Haman; so he had the gallows made. ~ Esther 5:14
          Now Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, said to the king, “Look! The gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke well on the king’s behalf, is standing at the house of Haman.” Then the king said, “Hang him on it!” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s wrath subsided. ~ Esther 7:9-10

          I can tell you exactly why God destroys certain things: He finds something they do as abhorrent and even evil. Sin separates man from knowing God and having a relationship with Him. Recall God telling Abraham, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward, they will come out with many possessions" (Genesis 15:13-14, New American Standard).

          In the case of Egypt, and why God struck them was twofold: the first is that Egypt worshiped strange and foreign gods. They had known God due to Abraham and even Isaac. The second part is that by the time the Exodus was to take place Egypt forgot the God of Israel as well as Joseph: "Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land" (Exodus 1:8-10).

          This ruler committed a sin before the Law was handed to Moses, that made God angry.  "Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live" (Exodus 1:16). Remember back in Genesis the curse and promise God gave to the serpent? "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15).

          Somewhere in the fall of mankind from God's glorious Creation, the serpent fell as well and became the ruler of nations: "It shall come to pass in the day the Lord gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve, that you will take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say...'How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit. “Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying: Is this the man who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms, who made the world as a wilderness
and destroyed its cities, who did not open the house of his prisoners?" (Isaiah 14:3-4, 12-17).

         In his own evil desires, sin, and beauty this accuser of the brethren has led nations aside speaking nothing but lies, deceit, and bondage over them. So, the truth of the matter is that God destroys the vile things that oppose Him. He is truth, love, gracious, filled with mercy, and compassion. Scripture tells us, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8, New American Standard). And yet, we--as God's children--are to do as God does, extending His mercy and compassion where we are persecuted. Yet, we cannot do so with these principalities and powers as they oppose God Himself.

          So, this goes back to the question as to why God destroys. Simply stated God is holy and anything impure cannot remain in His presence. While His desire is for us to be His, to be pure and made righteous through His Son Jesus, He won't hold our feet to the fire (so to speak). He will get our attention through renewing our minds to the fact that we are not meant for Hell as opposing principalities and powers are. Hell was not designed for mankind, but for those who fell from God's original design. It is why we have a Savior who came and bought us with His blood. His sacrifice, His obedience to God, destines us for an eternal and glorious future with Him and the Father.

          I will continue on in another post as to why there has to be an apocalypse; why God judges nations, people, and all. It also ties in to what I previously started with Hope for Nations. There is hope for us. We just have to allow Him the right to show us Him and His ways. It means we change to show the expression of Him and His glory. It is why Jesus set up the Church to be His body here and now until He comes again. After all, Jesus is the Hope for all nations.

          Father, I ask that You rekindle those who read the words You give to me. I ask that You show Your love, compassion, merciful and lovingkindness to them. It means they see Your Son high and lifted up on Calvary's cross. He died in our place, my own as well, and gives us access to You. I ask for this in Jesus' holy and precious name. Amen.

How Jesus the Messiah Fulfills God's Word

By Benjamin H. Liles

          Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 7:14, 9:6

          What would you do to show others the depth of love you have for them? Over the course of years Israel had disobeyed their God. At first it wasn't even like that. God appeared to Abraham and told him flat out, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete" (Genesis 15:13, 16, New American Standard).

          Jesus told the people, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, he saw it and was overjoyed” (John 8:56). And He fulfilled all of God's promises that was given through the Law and the prophets. His mother, Mary, was untouched by a man. An Angel appeared to Joseph, her betrothed, telling him, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20-21, New King James).

          Of all the ways a man can die, Jesus was put on a cross. He was no criminal. Look at what was shown to Isaiah, "and the government will be on his shoulders" (italics mine). Rome had this punishment for crimes committed in their arsenal: crucifixion. One beam vertical, and another beam horizontal, but yet placed closer to the head, right at the shoulder blades. All that weight you have to bear through the muscles down to the feet. So for Jesus to get air he would have to push up on his feet, hold his arms steady and breathe in. As he would breathe out, his body would sag. How many times do you think he'd be able to do this until He died?

          In the gospel accounts we're given a total of seven statements. Wow. God created Heaven and Earth in six days and on the seventh, the sabbath, He rested. Let's look at this briefly:

Day 1) God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light (Genesis 1:3, New King James).

Jesus' 1st statement: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34, Berean Bible). 

          God creates the light with the word of His mouth. And as Jesus is dying He tells the Father to forgive them. The God of the known universe on a cross, taking our punishment, yet interceding on our behalf with the Father, God.

Day 2)  God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters" (Genesis 1:6, New King James).

Jesus' 2nd statement)  And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43, New King James).

         A criminal hanging next to Jesus was being executed for his crimes asked Jesus for forgiveness. Jesus tells the man he will be with the Messiah in paradise. Recall at the beginning of Jesus' ministry he was baptized with the washing of the water? Jesus had the criminal covered by the cleansing water of His words. This man was now clean of His sins.

Day 3) God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so (Genesis 1:9, New King James).

Jesus' 3rd statement)  When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home (John 19:26-27, New King James).   

          God creates dry land so that it is separated from the waters. Jesus does an amazing thing here: He commissions John, the beloved disciple, to care for his earthly mother. He gives a charge for John to care for her while she remains alive. What a way to fulfill God's word to tend to the garden, and Jesus is telling one of His disciples to tend to His mother.

Day 4)  God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so (Genesis 1:11, New King James).

Jesus' 4th statement) And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46, New King James).

          This is a little different than the first three, and a bit harder to explain, so bear with me. Jesus tells the disciples what needs to happen for a rich and fruitful harvest to come about: "Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24, Berean Study). Jesus on the cross is crying out, experiencing pain on our behalf, feeling completely cut off from the Father. This is why He cries out. It fulfills scripture which can be found in Psalm 22, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?" (v. 1). Jesus is about to be placed in a tomb. Just like a seed, before it sends up a shoot, it is buried. 

Day 5) God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so (Genesis 1:14-15, New King James).

Jesus' 5th statement) After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” (John 19:28, New King James).

          After three years worth of ministry Jesus is half way done in being crucified fulfilling God, the Father's, plan in the redemption of mankind. God created light to be a source to man, noting times for "signs and seasons, days and years, to give light on the earth." And here's Jesus, the light of the world, whose light is slowly being extinguished. Don't worry, He'll blaze forth from the tomb in a couple of days. But at the moment, Jesus' mouth is parched, like the land in a blazing heat.

Day 6)  God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens. Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind. Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Genesis 1:20, 24, 26, New King James).

Jesus' 6th statement) And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit" (Luke 23:46, New King James). 

          God creates all the different animals after their own kind; cat will come from cat, dog from dog, hippos from hippos, birds from birds. And then Gos creates His crowning masterpiece: man. Jesus knew from where He came from. John, the disciple, records Jesus as being "the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:1-4, New King James). 

          God didn't make the Son. Look back at the Genesis account where man is being created; God says, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness" (Genesis 1:26). John is saying the word being spoken is Jesus, and it is through the word along with God the Father who created everything. Who better else to go back to but to the God of the known universe? Jesus is God, the Son of God. It is why He told the disciples, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father" (John 14:12, New King James). He is now poised in returning to the Father.

Day 7) "Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made" (Genesis 2:1-3, New King James).

Jesus' 7th and final words) "When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is finished!' And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit" (John 19:30, New King James). 

          In His final moments as He took our punishment on the cross, He utters the last statement before being entombed: "It is finished." Just as God rested on the seventh day after working for six days, Jesus is now finished from His work. He can lie in state under Roman protection with an immovable rock in place (see Matthew 27:66). His body couldn't be stolen. It was under Roman protection. 

          To steal a body under the law of Rome would have meant sudden death. To say that Jesus didn;'t even die, that He only "swooned" is saying God's word is a lie. How can you say you love God while you make a claim that shows you despise your own neighbor? "If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen" (1 John 4:20, Holman Christian Standard). 

          Likewise, from John's statement there I can also say that hating God, but saying you love others the truth isn't within you. John also says this: "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us" (1 John 1:6, 8; 2:11; 4:12, New American Standard).  

          What I can tell you is this, God loved you so much He couldn't bring Himself to do what was contrary to Himself. All of us, and this includes myself, deserve His wrath for sins we committed. But He loved us so much that his plan included having His Son, Jesus, the Word Incarnate, die the death we should have. It shows how much grace and mercy God has towards us. Why else would Peter refer back to scripture? 

          "The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent" (2 Peter 3:9, New Living Tanslation). Peter uses the verse and the promise that "Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him" (Isaiah 30:18).

          Isaiah himself looked backward at Hebrew scripture, declaring, "Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" (Psalm 46:10). Maybe even the psalmist remembered the snake in the wilderness being high and lifted up to heal the sins of the people: "So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered" (Numbers 21:9, Holman Christian Standard).

          What we do know is John, in his gospel alludes back to this serpent been lifted up: "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son" (John 3:14-18, Berean Study). 

          For what happened to those who did not look on the bronze serpent lifted high? Many died. "So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died" (Numbers 21:6). 

          We have an amazing opportunity here. God alone saves. We are the ones who sinned. Not God, and certainly not the Son. We have. We are accursed as we broke His laws. We are under the curse of the law, which we still have to this day. It's amazing that Jesus, who was born under the latter days of the Mosaic Law, died in our place once and for all. He is the final and acceptable sacrifice! No more animal sacrifice has to be made. 

          He atoned for us at Calvary, where He was crucified. He told the religious Jews, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19, New American Standard). He didn't just say it once either: "No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father" (John 10:18, Berean Study). 

          And what happened? Are we not told through scripture that He was indeed raised from the dead? "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas (who is called Peter), then by the twelve" (bold mine, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, New King James).

          Father, You are so holy and just that You could punish me for the sins I committed in my life. But in Your loving patience, You sent Your Son, Jesus, to die on my behalf. I cannot begin to repay what He did on my part. He fulfilled and obeyed all that You gave to Him. The result is that I am now Yours, and You add daily to Yourself those You know will make their choice for You. As David once declared, "He delivers me from my enemies; Surely You lift me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from the violent man" (Psalm 18:48, New American Standard). The violent man has once been sin and death who have oppressed me. Through Your Son, Jesus, who died in my place, You delivered and rescued me. I thank and praise You for this! Hallelujah! In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Gospel in Four Minutes

This isn't a video of mine. I love this video for how the owner of it tells Jesus' story. We should all allow His Spirit to work in and through our lives so we can impact this world on Christ's behalf. Listen to what he's saying. Realize this is closely related to everything I tell you in every post I write to you; to show you that Jesus is God as well as fulfills God's Word.

The Purpose of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

By Benjamin H. Liles

          Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. ~ Proverbs 27:5-6, New King James

          I have a huge problem with my weight. It does me no good. It pulls on my back causing me pain. Likewise, there is a story that illustrates this same thing. Two guys are really good friends. "Charles complained to his friend about lower back pain. He was seeking a sympathetic ear, but what he got was an honest assessment. His friend told him, 'I don't think your back pain is your problem; it's your stomach. Your stomach is so big it's pulling on your back.'" (Dec. 10 devotional from Our Daily Bread). At least I know why I have back pain and am doing something about it, just as Charles did. 

          Friend, how would you like not hearing the truth about life? Would you truly enjoy someone just giving you a sympathetic ear rather than hearing a word of truth? The sins you have in your life not only separate you from having fellowship with God. They are destroying you. Even then, when God judges all things, He will also have to judge you for remaining in those sins. What has been done against God will be revealed in the end. God's laws show how we have all fallen from Him. Let's see how.

1. I am the Lord your God, which has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall not have any other gods before me (ie. money, sex, rock n' roll, fame, etc.).
2. You shall not make for yourselves any graven image [idol worship].
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain [ie. use His name as a curse, or even in swearing against othes].
4. Remember the sabbath [seventh, Saturday] day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not kill. Jesus the Messiah added on that hating another is the same as murder (see Matthew 5:21-23).
7. You shall not commit adultery. Jesus the Messiah also said of adultery that looking on another person in lust is adultery (see Matthew 5:27-28). Even being found in the act of sleeping with your neighbor's spouse was met with terrible consequences; both people were stoned to death for this offense. Today, it is grounds for divorce in the modern world, especially in the west.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against [tell a lie] your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet [envy] after the things that belong to your neighbor; not his wife, servant (male or female), ox or donkey. 

          James is recorded as saying, "But each one is tempted when by his own evil desires he is lured away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death" (James 1:14-15). It is also written, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander" (Matthew 15:19).Telling lies about others, and this includes slander--both libel (written defamatory statement) and actual slander (spoken statements)--are often punishable in court (in the western world, where in other parts of the world they still practice stoning for the offense).

          We have all, including myself, broken God's commands. Where the first four commands are specifically designed to be about our relationship with God, the Father, the last six are designed to be about our relationship with others. There is a reason Jesus summarized the words of the Law and of the prophets: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40). 

          There is a reason Jesus came when He did. Even though Jesus' history is the start of a new period in history, He actually lived at the end of the Old Testament period. This isn't earth-shattering, but it might as well be. Think on this a moment. Numerous prophets in the Old Testament not only told of a Messiah who would come and conquer the world but also told of a suffering servant who would die on our behalf (Isaiah quickly comes to mind). But look also at the Levitical laws, in the book of Leviticus. Passages that say, "And an unblemished lamb, without defect or spot, will be slaughtered for the sins of the people" (my paraphrase, Exodus 12:5). 

          It is this reason Jesus, before He was crucified, died, was buried and rose from the tomb, said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (Matthew 5:17-18, Berean Study). In regards to the timeline of history, the life of the Church, Jesus the Messiah's Church, is the beginning point of the New Testament. 

          Remember the healing Jesus did on behalf of the people? He wasn't just taking their diseases, their afflictions from them. Those "sins" had to go somewhere. While Jesus was certainly without sin--blemish or spot--He took upon Himself our pains, our afflictions, our diseases, and all so we can boldly come before God the Father in mercy and grace. Jesus said this, "And whoever sees Me sees the One who sent Me" (John 12:45, Berean Study). It is why John later penned, "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate before the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One" (1 John 2:1, Berean Study).

          What is the mark of the New Testament period then? When you read in Acts, "And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them" (Acts 2:2-3, New American Standard). Why is this so needed? How can the Spirit of God upon men be the evidence of Jesus' power among the world as evidence of His Church? 

          Jesus said two things: "When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father--the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father--He will testify about Me" (John 15:26, Holman Christian Standard). The second is, "But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8, American King James). Without the Spirit of God on us, working out our salvation from beginning to end, to encourage, empower, and edify (build up) the Church we are without Him and His help. The Spirit of God as well as Jesus' Church is a physical manifestation of Jesus' kingdom still being present in this world.

          If I only kept this blog up, without His grace and power, then I'd be the one to get the glory for your salvation. But I can't claim any of it. Why? I'm not Jesus. My name is Benjamin Liles. I'm a teacher of His grace and mercy. I still sin, but I can go boldly before Him, telling Him how I fall short. He forgives me because when I sin it's not done with intention to hurt or cause Him pain. Rather, I hate sin. I glorify and praise Him when His truth, when His mercy and grace are given, which He did at the cross are present. Jesus the Messiah is alive! He can and will take your sin, setting you free from sin and death, giving you access to Him, His love, and His presence. 

          I much rather explain to you the full reason why you hurt. It's not so much what you have done (in a way yes), but the lies this world and present world system want you to see and believe. Allow the gospel of love and truth set you free. Allow for the fact that is breaking your back to be cut off. Be free from sin and death. You don't want eternal separation from God, Jesus, or His Spirit. Stand with me and declare His goodness! Come before the throne of grace, the cross, and lay it all down. Allow Jesus to be King of your life. Allow Him the right to live within you. To love God. To love others as He has loved you. 

          Father, You are so holy and pure. I cannot stand before You without falling face down in Your presence and worship You for all You have done for me. Protect those in this world who are persecuted for Your name sake. Help those who so desperately need You. Be their ever present help in this time of need. We are like this planet, groaning and awaiting Your glorious return. Without You coming back, no flesh can be saved. Help us endure until You return. Help us to keep holding on until Your final word has been fulfilled. Thank You, Jesus, for dying on my behalf. Thank You for Your wondrous love for me. I pray and seek You in all things. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.