“One of the best safeguards against heresy is to read through the whole Bible often.” – Mike Fabarez
I was thinking it would be a great fashion statement to wear a mini electric chair around my neck. I’m thinking of getting one with diamonds on it. Have you really ever thought this through? When did the cross become a symbol of fashion or a thing in-and-of-itself to be worshiped? They are everywhere and on everyone. Some people wear it as a symbol to show their affiliation but it has drastically lost it’s meaning. Some people place mini alters in their homes with a cross as the center piece. Who exactly are they praying too? Catholics want a dead Jesus hanging on it to remind they of what he endured and Protestants want it empty to represent his resurrection. Atheists want it extra large to represent their mockery of it while Agnostics wear in it’s latest sideways fashion just to fit in. Somewhere along the line in history, the cross became detestable to God. It has become a Baal, an idol that we worship more than the One who died on it. Let’s take a step back today and really consider what the cross represents and try to de-desensitise ourselves to it.
“Learn not the way of the nations,
nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
because the nations are dismayed at them,
for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down
and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so that it cannot move.
Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Isn’t it interesting that as we move forward in time we often hear people say “In my day, kids were not as bad as they are today.” or “Back when I was growing up you NEVER heard of people doing the things they are doing today.” We are getting really good and being really bad. Pastor Mike Fabarez spoke about this at Compass Night last week where he talked about how God shortened the lives of men in Noah’s day. It was interesting because he said the reason God’s Spirit would no longer “contend with Man” for as long as it had (upwards of 1000 years) is that men got really good at being bad. They perfected the art of doing evil, or as Jeremiah puts it, “They are ‘wise’ in doing evil!” It is surprising that God cut the lifespan down to under 10% of what it had been. First to 120 years, then onward to in the Psalms 80 is a good old age. I know some people who are fantastic at the art of evil and do it exceedingly well. Interesting thought by Pastor Mike for sure!
They are ‘wise’—in doing evil! – Jeremiah 4:22
~ Jen O’Sullivan
“How can you say, ‘I am not unclean, I have not gone after the Baals’?” – Jeremiah 2:23
“For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore.” – Jeremiah 2:20
“but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22
Paul’s charge to the Thessalonians here is similar in nature to what he tells the Philippians in 4:8-”8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” The common encouragement to the believers in Paul’s day is to make sure that they see the love of Christ and his faithful word as the target to live up to. Paul was making sure that they tested the things they would hear and that their minds would be constantly filled with good and holy things.
As the years go by, we tend to find more and more things of the world to identify with and justify. Things such as music, TV shows, appropriate language and stuff like that continues to become more and more mainstream even into the church as a whole. We need to see these things as they are and not show tolerance to them as God hates every form of evil. He commands that we hold onto every thing that is worthy, righteous and good.
God’s command in my life, through the writing of Paul and other authors of scripture, is to hate the things of this world. I even need to hate things to the extent of inconvenience or self discipline in order to pull away from anything that can take hold of my life. If I truly meditate on things that are honorable, pure, just, lovely, true and commendable, I will see my life being sanctified and strengthened. I need to be in the word constantly to make sure I am learning more of God’s character and how identify with it. God help me in this please!
I have lost a lot of “friends” over the past few months and I have to say I am quite proud of that fact. Had you asked me what my number one problem was last April I might have told you I was sad to not have any real friends since I have recently moved to my new city. I was always obsessed with making everyone happy and making lots of friends. Now, all I care about is shouting Jesus from the rooftops. I have offended some but others have come out of the woodworks and have aligned with me for the sake of Jesus. I will not keep silent! I will not be quiet!
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch.
- Isaiah 62:1
~ Jen O’Sullivan
As Christians, we should be ready and willing to encourage and charge each other to mirror God’s word. We should rest in the fact that we are part of the sanctification process that God has planned for each person and if it we are the ones being charged, we should respond as though it is God charging us, as long as the charge is in fact biblical.
Truths like this in scripture are what help me to recognize that some people will be offended and some will respond biblically. I can’t hold back on a biblical charge or encouragement if I feel like the person is going to be offended. I need to use God’s word as it was intended to be used and I need to respond to it just the same.
~ Ryan Damato
we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers
Paul, when he was with the Thessalonians, explained that he was going to have some affliction. His fear was that the Thessalonians would have the same and that they would turn from the truth in order to live peaceably rather than in affliction. When he hears of their faith, he goes as far as to say that “now we live”! This is such a powerful statement as he is in extreme times of persecution but what brings him joy is the faith of the Thessalonian church.
Christians need to see the sanctification of others as a joyful and exciting thing. This joy and excitement should be so powerful that it causes us to look away from our own affliction and praise God all the more.
I am experiencing this very thing right now and it is one of the most reviving things in my walk with Christ. Seeing a sinner repent and then get excited about what he is reading in scripture really makes me “live” as Paul put it. This charges me up to see more lives changed and lived for Christ!
“for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 3:7
~ Ryan Damato
Photo by Kathy Burcham
Today in Isaiah 53 we read some of the most profound and revealing prophecies regarding the coming of the “Servant” who would redeem God’s people through offering his own life as a “guilt offering” (v.10). I trust you will be extremely thankful for the payment of Christ and the forthcoming fulfillment of a vast kingdom of peace that the Prince will one day establish—as the successive chapters detail. I hope your reading of Paul’s exemplary heart and ministry, in 1 Thessalonians, will prompt your own acts of sacrificial ministry.
53:1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? 
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected  by men;
a man of sorrows,  and acquainted with  grief; 
and as one from whom men hide their faces 
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief; 
when his soul makes  an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see  and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, 
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, 
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
The Eternal Covenant of Peace
54:1 “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.
2 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations
and will people the desolate cities.
4 “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
5 For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
6 For the Lord has called you
like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God.
7 For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
8 In overflowing anger for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord, your Redeemer.
9 “This is like the days of Noah  to me:
as I swore that the waters of Noah
should no more go over the earth,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you,
and will not rebuke you.
10 For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
11 “O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted,
behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
and lay your foundations with sapphires. 
12 I will make your pinnacles of agate, 
your gates of carbuncles, 
and all your wall of precious stones.
13 All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children.
14 In righteousness you shall be established;
you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
and from terror, for it shall not come near you.
15 If anyone stirs up strife,
it is not from me;
whoever stirs up strife with you
shall fall because of you.
16 Behold, I have created the smith
who blows the fire of coals
and produces a weapon for its purpose.
I have also created the ravager to destroy;
17 no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
and their vindication  from me, declares the Lord.”
The Compassion of the Lord
55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12 “For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Paul’s Ministry to the Thessalonians
2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers,  that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery,  as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle  among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
13 And we also thank God constantly  for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last! 
Paul’s Longing to See Them Again
17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy. (ESV)
 53:1 Or Who has believed what we have heard?
 53:3 Or forsaken
 53:3 Or pains; also verse 4
 53:3 Or and knowing
 53:3 Or sickness; also verse 4
 53:3 Or as one who hides his face from us
 53:10 Or he has made him sick
 53:10 Or when you make his soul
 53:11 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scroll he shall see light
 53:12 Or with the great
 53:12 Or with the numerous
 54:9 Some manuscripts For this is as the waters of Noah
 54:11 Or lapis lazuli
 54:12 Or jasper, or ruby
 54:12 Or crystal
 54:17 Or righteousness
 2:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 9, 14, 17
 2:5 Or with a flattering speech
 2:7 Some manuscripts infants
 2:13 Or without ceasing
 2:16 Or completely, or forever
Let’s stop being so desensitized to the cross and really reflect on the reality of the pain and suffering that Christ endured for us… for me! To know that Jesus, the love of my life was marred beyond human semblance is absolutely horrifying. There are no words that describe my deep deep gratitude for the deep deep love Jesus demonstrated for me!
“As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind.” – Isaiah 52:14
~ Jen O’Sullivan