I haven’t been blogging for the last couple weeks because on June 6 my laptop crashed. This has resulted in me securing an updated laptop but it also resulted in quite a bit of disruption of my normal routine over the last couple of weeks. My old laptop had three things that were critical to my pastoral ministry which had to be replaced or integrated into the newer laptop. Those three things are my Logos Bible software, my Dragon dictation software and my connection to our dropbox, where my sermon notes and blogs find their way to be copied and posted. Because I had my Dragon and Logos on my home computer I did most of my studying from my home office but I was not connected to the dropbox from my home office. I am thankful for an upgrade on my computer but I had to work to get some bugs out of the system and that postponed some of the other things that I try to get done on a regular basis (including my blog). These things were really only minor inconveniences, but they did slow up my work production. But what happens in our lives when there is a major disruption in our lives because of something catastrophic event? [Read more…]
One of the greatest challenges the Lord Jesus Christ has given to the church today is that we love one another as He loved us. We read this challenge in the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel where we see Jesus’s words –“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all men will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another”, (v.33-34 NASB). This new commandment that Jesus gives is in the form of a farewell gift to His disciples before His departure. But the commandment to love one another is not a new commandment at all, so why does Jesus use the words “a new commandment”? I believe that it is a commandment that is new in that it is to occupy the highest position of priority in our ministries and relationships. It is backed up by the greatest example possible. “New” refers to the degree of importance that we should give this charge to love one another. Love is a very special and important grace, and Jesus speaks to how vast its extent should be in our care for one another. John is known as the apostle of love. In fact, there’s a tradition that when John was old and feeble and could no longer preach he would be carried in before his congregation and simply state, “Little children, love one another.” [Read more…]
Next Saturday we will be celebrating our fifth “Taste of the World” event. At “Taste of the World” we invite the many nationalities in our church to bring dishes of their heritage so that we can share in one another’s food heritage. It is, however, much more than a food tasting day as we have many other activities and ministries going on. But our experience at “Taste of the World” reminds me of what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 34 when he says – “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him,” (v.8 NIV). Some things just have to be tried firsthand in order to be enjoyed. Having different food experiences is one of those things. But in the spiritual realm the most incredible thing that we can experience is to taste of God’s goodness and kindness towards us through Jesus Christ. It is difficult to communicate the concepts of the freedom of forgiveness and the joy of walking with God to someone who’s never had that experience. The psalmist delights in reflecting on the goodness of God. For someone who’s never experienced that goodness all we can do is tell them how good our God is and encourage them to receive the free gift that God has offered to us for through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Taste and see” yes indeed the Lord is so very good. Next Saturday here at New Durham Chapel we will engage and encourage our community to experience the bounty of the Lord that is seen in the food that will be provided and the many activities that will be going on. We are not doing this as a fundraiser for a church. Actually it’s more like a “friend raiser” as we seek to engage our community in tasting and seeing that the Lord is so good. God has given us the free gift of salvation and so we too give everything out for free to those who are here. There will be free food, free fun bus, and free pony rides. But there also will be a chance to receive the best gift of all and that is the gift of eternal life that is found through Jesus Christ alone. We’re trusting God to give us a beautiful, sunny day and believing that He will continue to move and work in our lives as we faithfully serve Him. If you’ve never experienced the touch of God in your life we encourage you to come taste and see that the Lord is an awesome God who moves and works in our world in many incredible ways. If you have some time next Saturday afternoon (2-6) we invite you to join us for our special “Taste of the World” event. Not only will you have a chance to taste food from all around the world but you may end up having a living encounter with the God of the universe. He is the one who has provided a remarkable salvation for us through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. Come and join with us as we celebrate the kindness and goodness of our God at this special moment in time and in this special place.
All praise to our great Savior,
Pastor Rich Sivo
We’ve been looking over the last few blogs at the significance of the cross as seen from Isaiah 53. We have seen that all of our sins were placed on the Lord Jesus Christ and he suffered incredible things as part of His atoning work on our behalf. Isaiah continues in verse 7 when he writes- “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and like a sheep, before her shearers are dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and judgment; and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was he stricken,” (Isa.53:7-8 KJV). The Scripture says that Jesus was oppressed and afflicted. These words mean that he was treated unsparingly. Jesus wasn’t completely silent during his ordeal, but he raised no objection to defend Himself. More than once during His trials He responded to falsehood and slander, but this passage is referring to His patience, submission and moral fortitude in the face of great evil. There was never a plead of innocence, even when Pilate challenged Him as to his authority to judge Jesus. Jesus freely offered himself to suffer and to die for us. Having undertaken our debt he underwent our penalty. This takes us back to John the Baptist’s statement in John 1 where he says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” ( John 1:29). The fact that Jesus was silent under such incredible torture and torment shows us the divine grandeur of His Majesty in keeping His power under control. Jesus not responding as the Almighty God to destroy those who were punishing Him is one of the greatest demonstrations of self-control. Why was Jesus silent in the midst of these sufferings? First of all, because He had to keep His part of the covenant that was made with His heavenly Father before the foundation of the world. Secondly, because of His great love for us, for He knew that He would be bearing our sins and the punishment that we rightly deserved on the cross. Finally, He sought to bring His Father the greatest glory and the Father receives glory through the obedience of the Son. Remember God speaking on the Mount of Transfiguration where He said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear Him,” (Matt.17:5). Isaiah uses the picture of a lamb being sheared. A lamb bears the loss of its fleece or life without clamor or resistance. Sheep are harmless and helpless; it’s hard to conceive of a picture of more innocence and patience. This was fulfilled by the Lord Jesus in the face of gross injustice.
We see in verse 8 that Jesus Himself was separated from justice. The cross of Jesus Christ was judicial murder, void of any genuine legality. Think of the judge in the case of Jesus was also the prosecutor. Jesus’s trial was an outrage by Hebrew standards. It occurred at night time, and the judge sought witnesses against the defendant. The only jurors that were called were the ones who had already determined Jesus’s guilt. No two witnesses could agree on their testimony, and the judge finally demanded a confession from the Lord Jesus Christ. Pilate made an even grosser violation of conscience by condemning a person that he knew to be an innocent man. It demonstrates how the dark world we live in hates the light. Jesus, it says “was cut off out of the land of the living,” (v.8). The words “cut off” strongly suggest not only a violent death but a premature death as a result of the oppressive judgment of men. Jesus appeared to leave no prosperity or successor. He had no children, and his apparent defeat was a great tragedy. It was this very defeat that was, in fact, His greatest victory. But when Jesus died probably not a one single human being believed in Jesus as the Messiah. All their hopes had been smashed, but it was not for His sins, but our sins as Isaiah says in the last part of verse 8 –“ for the transgressions of my people was he stricken.” Don’t mistake the meaning and purpose of Jesus’s death. I believe the term “my people” in verse 8 refers to all those who down through the ages would put their faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is because of what Jesus Christ has done for us that we have the hope and promise of eternal life. Isaiah 53 demonstrates for us from God’s perspective the redemption that God has made possible for us through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. We see in Isaiah’s prophecy written 700 years before the time of Jesus God’s great mercy for the sinner in allowing His Son to suffer our just punishment. It is when we encounter our greatest need that we find God to be the most wonderful provider and one who cares for us. Have you experienced the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ on your behalf? If you know Jesus as your Savior, don’t keep it to yourself. Let those around you know what God has done in setting you free from the bondage and slavery of sin. And if you never trusted Christ as your Savior why not do so today?
For God’s glory,
Pastor Rich Sivo
We’ve been talking the last few blogs about the significance of the cross in the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ. I’d like to continue this theme by considering further the passage we were looking at last week in Isaiah 53. We read, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes, we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,” (v.5-6 KJV). “But he” sets a contrast between what we had considered the suffering servant was going through and what was actually happening. These two verses are remarkable for their numerous and diversified references to sin. These verses highlight the substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ who suffered as a result of our sins.
The word “wounded” means to be pierced through and it is a word that signifies to run through with a sword or a sharp object. This occurred after Jesus’s death when a Roman soldier dealt a final blow by piercing Jesus with a spear to verify his death. The word “bruised” speaks of the crushing experience that Jesus had on the cross. The word is the strongest expression in the Hebrew language to denote a violent and painful death. These are the afflictions and sorrows which are blessed Lord sustained on our behalf. The last scenes of Jesus’s earthly life are filled with sorrow, pain, and ugliness. And yet Isaiah tells us that all of this was done for our peace. The Hebrew word peace- “shalom” speaks of having a general well-being and of peace in the heart that is the result of the peace with God. Our punishment fell upon the servant who was an innocent man. His death appears from outside circumstances as a horrible defeat and ruin for him. When in actuality his death was on our behalf, and all of our sins had been laid upon him. When people express the idea that they don’t need Jesus’s sacrifice on their behalf they are minimizing the seriousness of their sin problem. There is nothing that we could do that would satisfy the righteousness and justice of God for the sins that we have committed. But God allowed his Son to be a sin offering for us. There is nothing that we could do in our power to ever begin to satisfy God for the sins that we have committed, but God took the initiative through His Son to make provisions for each and every one of us.
Romans 3:23 tells us, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,”(Rom.3:23 KJV). Isaiah tells us that we were like sheep going astray. Sheep are apt to wander and lose their way if there left to themselves. They have easily led astray and deceived, and we can also be easily led astray and deceived. But Isaiah tells us that the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Was it right that all of our sins should be laid on Jesus? From a human perspective “no” but God was acting on our behalf through His Son to make way for us to have eternal life. Jesus’s death was not an accident, but the unjust death of our Savior was part of God’s decree so that we may have eternal life through believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. What an amazing thing occurred at the cross of Jesus Christ. The sins of the whole world were laid on him, and there is nothing that we can do to pay God back for this sacrifice. All we can do is accept the gift of eternal life that God has provided for us. “All we” is an indication of the fact that we are all going in the wrong direction. In God paying for our sins on Calvary’s cross, Jesus removed the sin barrier that once stood between God and us. The peace that was purchased for us was purchased through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The sight of the cross should move us to deep and godly sorrow. Have you beheld the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? To come to the foot of the cross and consider the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and to choose to make Him our Lord and Savior would seem like the only proper response to such an amazing love.
Pastor Rich Sivo