As I Sat on that Jury, This is What God Was Telling Me….

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1, NIV)

“We, the jury, find the defendant guilty.”

Those are the words our foreman read representing all 12 of us who had served those two days on a criminal-case jury panel at the Lubbock County Courthouse. We then sentenced the defendant to just under 50 years in the state penitentiary. It was his 3rd felony conviction.

Afterward, I couldn’t help but ponder the parallels – and contrasts – between our human courts of law and how the Bible describes a believer’s position in Christ.

There was no question with any us on the jury – the defendant was guilty. Likewise, in terms of eternal life and our relationship with a holy God, you and I are guilty, as well. There is no question. “If we claim to be without sin,” John wrote, “we deceive ourselves,” because “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” (1 John 1:8; Romans 3:23)

I can assure you the Defense Attorney assigned to defend the defendant had no interest in saying, “Hey Judge, clearly this man is guilty and deserves his punishment. But I love him and want to take his punishment, thereby, allowing him to walk out of this courtroom a free man.”

But once upon a time – in a higher court – that is exactly what Jesus Christ did for us – except the stakes were much higher. The Judge was God the Father and the punishment was the death penalty. The defendant was mankind. The crime was rebellion against the Judge Himself, God. As mind-boggling as this may sound, this is where the story confounds most. God, Himself, would “put on skin”, and not only defend us in court, but offer to take the full penalty for our crime. Jesus’ death had to prove to be the one perfect atoning sacrifice to fully satisfy God’s penalty for sin. Personifying a love beyond our ability to understand, our advocate – our defense attorney, if you will – pleaded our hopeless case. The Father then looked upon us, already declared guilty beyond all possible doubt and, by placing our guilt – and death sentence – on Jesus, declared us innocent of all charges. Jesus died our death. And, three days later, conquered it by rising from the dead – making it possible for our crime to be eradicated, nullified,….forgiven, once for all.

This is the Gospel.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath…..He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (Romans 5:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Family Matters

“These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, hcsb)

Family devotions…..

Think about that phrase for a moment. What comes to mind? If you’re like most families – nothing comes to mind. I don’t have a single childhood memory of my parents leading any type of family devotional time.

Biblically, family-worship was never an option. “….watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen….Teach them to your children…. Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when He said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear My words so that they may learn to revere Me as long as they live in the land and may teach [My words] to their children.” Deuteronomy 4:9-10, niv

What follows is a devotional I received recently written by pastor/teacher, Jim Hardwicke: (Jim is the man under whom I surrendered to the ministry in 1980.)

What ever happened to family devotions–where parents simply read a portion of the Bible to their family, talk about it with them, and pray together?

In his book, While God is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers, author Steven E. Woodworth writes, ‘Religious worship was by no means limited to the church or confined within the walls of houses of worship. ‘Family prayers,’ held each evening in each Christian home, were as important to nineteenth-century Christians as any of the corporate worship services of the church…Vermont soldier Wilbur Fisk noted that reading a chapter of the Bible and praying together had been his family’s ‘custom from time immemorial.’ Deep in the South, not far from Atlanta, James A. Connolly and other Union officers found themselves quartered with a Southern family, in whose house the Army of the Cumberland’s headquarters was located. That evening, Connolly and other staff officers joined the family in their regular evening prayers, including the singing of hymns’.

Family devotions don’t have to be long. In fact, more than 10 minutes, or so, might be too long. But any of us can read at least a few verses from the Bible and pray together, for the needs of our family members, our church, our nation, and/or our world. Why not start this week? Why not aim for family devotions at least 5 out of 7 days a week?

When our children see real Christianity lived out in a daily way in our homes, it will change them forever.

Not enough time? Schedules too crazy? Don’t feel qualified to lead something like this? Relax – if that’s what is going through your mind right now, you’re normal. It also means that Satan is both furious – and terrified – hoping that the frantic thoughts with which he tries to fill your mind will lead you to do……nothing.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick