Category: The Word

Would a Burning Bush experience change your view of God?

020-moses-burning-bush  The first time I was ever cognizant of God’s direct involvement in my life was July 9th 1982 at 10:30 pm. That Burning Bush experience not only miraculously saved my life, but changed me forever. I’d like to say that ever since I periodically hear the audible voice of God and have angels guiding my every step – but that would be untrue. In fact, I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, nor seen an angel nor, well you get the idea. Some of my Christian acquaintances lay claim to such wondrous experiences. Would my faith be increased if I spectated such a supernatural occurrence? Perhaps! But I am completely satisfied with God’s level of involvement in my life, and have no reason to doubt either His love or His leading.

I know without a doubt that He speaks to me and leads me in varied (and sometimes unusual) ways. He speaks to me when I read the Bible and receive an understanding of a particular passage that is new or refreshing to me. He speaks to me when another seeks my advice about a spiritual or even secular matter – then draws out wisdom and knowledge that I wasn’t even aware had been deposited somewhere in my memory bank. And over the past few years I find He speaks to me most vividly while I am writing – whether it be my blog, a FaceBook post, a teaching or a book.

Coincidence is a word I’ve come to banish from my vocabulary

God is constantly confirming His guiding hand in my life. Just a little over a week ago I was led to write a short article on the differences between the generations. I led off with the 16th century writer John Donne’s famous words, “No man is an island,” and proceeded to encourage the young and the old to work as one body, to help one another and share their unique perspectives on life. Then this past weekend, as the youth pastor spoke to our congregation in lieu of our main pastor who was out of town, he delivered a message that paralleled my blog. I listened in awe of how my amazing Lord works to reach His people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered if a local, or even a visiting minister was reading my material and using it as an outline for his or her message that week. At other times I’ve heard a speaker one-up me on a message that God had been dealing with me to put to print. It is situations like this that confirm that the Holy Spirit is directing each of us in our separate endeavors.

I have many friends and relatives who must think me foolish for my expression of such beliefs and the complete trust I place in both God’s written Word and in what He speaks to my heart. I find myself praying that each would have a Burning Bush experience of their own. But would it really make a difference? I guess it depends on the individual, and their own state of open-mindedness.

I believe God speaks to each one of His children through “unusual circumstances of life,” a phrase I prefer to “coincidences.” Coincidence is a word that the skeptic uses to deny that there might actually be a supernatural realm impacting his or her life. Most people are deaf to God’s voice; some because they find it hard to fathom that they are worthy of such a Dad to child relationship with the Creator of the universe; others because acknowledgement of such a relationship would complicate their lives and require them to consider what Daddy might expect of them.

A Biblical example of how God values and desires a relationship with each of us

Last week I heard a beautiful Biblical example of the extremes God will go through to get a single person’s attention and turn their life around. The lesson must be important because it’s related in three of the four Gospels, Mark, Matthew and Luke. It begins with Jesus and His disciples ministering in Capernaum, a city on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee. In spite of His exhaustion from a day of preaching and healing the multitudes, Jesus was led to cross over by boat to Gadara on the eastern shore, a land inhabited by pagans and by Jews who didn’t obey the Law of Moses. En route He fell asleep. All three writers explain how a fierce storm came up that so frightened even the disciples who were fishermen by trade, that they awoke Jesus. He calmed the storm and rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. As they arrived at their destination, they were met by a naked crazy man who lived in the tombs. His behavior is explained as that of a man possessed by multiple demons: “No one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.” Jesus cast out the demons and the man returned to his right mind. Jesus got back into the boat and prepared to go back to Capernaum. The man who had been demon-possessed begged Jesus to take him with Him; however, Jesus told to him to go home to his friends and tell them what great things the Lord had done for him.

Jesus and the twelve Apostles had journeyed for hours across dangerous waters just to set one man free. Then He delegated to that new believer the task of evangelizing the entire region. Had it been me, I’d at least have left a couple of the disciples behind to guide the man for some period of time to make sure he knew what he was doing. But Jesus saw something special in the man’s heart and trusted him to go about the Father’s business. The man’s BB experience changed him forever.

Some of us need these Burning Bush experiences to coalesce all the doctrine and traditions and spiritual words we’ve heard about the Lord into a firm statement of faith. Even the Apostle Thomas after three years of following Jesus and observing all the miracles, found himself challenged to believe what his compatriots told him about Jesus’ appearance following His resurrection: “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” So Jesus gave him that opportunity. But after Thomas was finally able to come to grips with the truth, what was Jesus’ response? “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Blessed indeed are those who have been graced with great faith independent of charismatic experiences. But it should be encouraging to know the depths God will use to reach your loved ones and draw them into His Kingdom. So don’t feel guilty about asking God to provide those supernatural encounters – if that’s what it will take.

Six things to remember about True Freedom

What is Freedom? Webster’s dictionary has several definitions including the following:

1: the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action

2. liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another

3. the quality or state of being exempt or released from something onerous

4. the quality of being open or outspoken

5. boldness of conception or execution

6. unrestricted use

7. a political right

Freedom is a subject few of us have taken the time to study precisely because few words are so common, and as people living in a so-called “free” country, we all think we understand what freedom is. Clearly politicians, businesspeople, advertisers and military leaders all know how to use “freedom” to attract attention and draw interest. And this past week on FaceBook I’ve seen several posts where “freedom” and “rights” have been used interchangeably – a clear error that even I have made at times.

Every follower of Christ knows the verses “the truth will set you free,” “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom,” and “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Still, the Biblical idea of freedom is much different from the cultural value of the same name. And neither one is the same as “free will.”

While independence from tyranny is not a bad thing, it’s just not true freedom. Freedom has nothing to do with one’s material circumstances. It’s a state of mind – a soulish and spiritual thing. One can be physically located within prison walls, constrained by chains and still be totally free. In contrast, one can be walking about in the world, able to do whatsoever one desires and have no freedom at all.

Freedom is Trusting Obedience

Real freedom doesn’t fit any of the nice Webster definitions. Real freedom is found only in setting aside everything secular culture touts as freedom. According to the Bible it is trusting obedience; clearly not the image portrayed in popular culture. To understand this consider the following example I recently heard: A train is free only so long as it stays on its tracks; a train that jumps the tracks is “free” of the rails but no longer free in the most important sense of the word. It’s a freed wreck that can’t go anywhere. “Free” but no longer truly free. In order to be free, a train requires the constraints of the tracks guiding it along to its destination.

Two of our Church Fathers also provide great insight into true freedom. According to Augustine, it is not choice or lack of constraint, but being what you are meant to be – and we were created in the image of God. The closer we conform to the true image of God, Jesus Christ, the freer we become. The farther we drift from that image the more our freedom shrinks. And in Martin Luther’s words: “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.” In other words, because of what Christ has done for him or her the Christian doesn’t have to do anything. On the other hand, out of gratitude for what Christ has done for him or her, the Christian is bound in servitude to God and other people. She gets the privilege of serving them freely and joyfully.

The following is a sampling of what Jesus and His leaders had to say about true freedom:

From David: “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out Your precepts.”

From Paul to the Romans: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

From Paul to the Corinthians: “Everything is permissible for me–but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me–but I will not be mastered by anything.”

From Paul to the Galatians: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

From Paul to the Colossians: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”

From Peter: “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”

From Jesus: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, …”

Six things to remember about True Freedom

  1. Man was created by God to be free. But if man rebels from God he gives away his freedom. He becomes enslaved to bad behavior, wrong thoughts and the enemy of God.
  1. Freedom does not exist apart from God. An ability (or a right) to exercise a choice is not the same as freedom. A “right” granted by a governmental authority is never a freedom when it runs counter to the Word and will of God.
  1. There’s a price to be paid for freedom. And Jesus paid that price for us.
  1. Freedom is a “pass through” – it can’t be kept to one’s self. If we do not share our freedom with others, then we are not truly free ourselves – at least not to the degree God intended.
  1. We are not “free” to do everything or anything just because we are “able” to do so, or just because it is not necessarily evil.
    1. Our degree of freedom can be measured by our attitudes and motives in the exercise of our freedom.
    2. So if you’re asked “Is a Christian free to drink alcohol, or to listen to a certain kind of music, or to party, or to do whatever?” tell them the answer is conditional. It’s conditional based on your present attitudes and motives, on the long-term impacts it may have on you in the future and on the potential impact that behavior may foreseeably have on others who may or may not be offended by it.
    3. Behavior based on selfish desires and interests is never free – for these are slavish by nature.
  1. Freedom reflects the character of God. The character of God is Love, Compassion, Truth, Life, etc.

Given by Inspiration of God, and Profitable for healthy living

This week my blog has taken a back seat to helping my daughter and son-in-law prep their condo for sale. So instead of an in-depth discussion of a subject that interests me I’m using this space to raise some interesting questions that perhaps I’ll expound on in the weeks to come.

 One of the most frequently-quoted verses is taken from the Apostle Paul’s second letter to his pastor-intern Timothy: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” I know of no Christian who would question that all Scripture is “profitable” for healthy living. On the other hand, I know many who seem to take issue with the declaration that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.”

 If you haven’t been challenged on this in your Christian walk to date, it’s only a matter of time before you will be. And it’s best that you give some serious thought and prayer to it, so you’ll be prepared to defend your Faith when the time comes.

 Before one can even begin to debate such a concept, one has to first have a common understanding of the terms. So, as a former American President adept at parsing words once said, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” In our case, it depends upon the meaning of the words ‘all Scripture.’

 To set the framework, I ask the following questions to drill down to an understanding of what constitutes ‘all Scripture?’

 Question #1: Does “all Scripture” refer only to those works that preceded the quote (i.e.: the Old Testament writings, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Book of Acts and the earlier authored letters?)

 Things to consider: Most scholars agree that 2 Timothy was written between 66 and 67 AD. That actually precedes the completion of the writing of two of the Gospels (John and Mark), six of the letters (2 Peter, Hebrews, Jude, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John) and the Apostle John’s vision recorded in the Book of Revelation.

 Question #2: Does “by inspiration of God” include the process by which the canon of our current Bible was compiled?

 Things to consider: The term “canon” is used to describe the books that are divinely inspired and therefore belong in the Bible. By 250 AD there was nearly universal agreement on the canon of Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament Books). The only issue that remained was the Apocrypha, with some debate and discussion continuing today. For the New Testament, the process of the recognition and collection began in the first century of the Christian church and continued to evolve over the next three centuries. Finally in 363 AD the Council of Laodicea stated that only the Old Testament (along with the Apocrypha) and the 27 books of the New Testament were to be read in the churches. This was confirmed by later councils.

 Question #3: How far does “all Scripture inspired of God” extend beyond the original forty writers hand-chosen by God to record their works in their biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek?

 Things to consider: There are 1,300 languages and dialects into which the Holy Bible, in its entirety or in portions, has been translated.  Some of the earliest translations of the Old Testament scriptures began during the first exile in Babylonia, with most people speaking only Aramaic and not understanding Hebrew. Then when Alexandria became the center of Hellenistic Judaism, a Koine Greek translation was completed by 132 BC.  There was a Latin translation of the entire Bible at the end of the 4th Century AD. And even some fragmentary Old English Bible translations from 735, an Old High German version of the gospel of Matthew dating to 748, and a translation into Old Church Slavonic from 863. The use of numbered chapters was not introduced until the Middle Ages. The complete Bible was translated into Old French in the late 13th century and the entire Bible was translated into Czech around 1360.

 The first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts were produced in 1380, translated by John Wycliffe out of the Latin Vulgate. [This would be incomprehensible to the reader today in English.] Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German for the first time from the Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus, and went on to publish the entire Bible in German by 1530. William Tyndale working with Luther, used the same source material to translate and print the New Testament in English. The complete Geneva Bible was first published in 1560. It was the first Bible to add numbered verses to the chapters, so that referencing specific passages would be easier. The Anglican Church’s King James Bible was printed in 1611 (revised language in 1769 and again in the late 1800’s) to compete with the Protestant Geneva Bible and was influenced by the Roman Catholic Rheims New Testament. Its 54 scholars used earlier translated versions (so it’s not even a direct translation.)

 Question #4: How do the vast differences between the ancient Hebrew’s or Greek’s language and our own, as well as the differences in our cultures separated by two to three millennia, impact your application of the phrase “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God?”

 Things to consider: The translator’s difficult task is/was compounded by the presence of words and phrases whose original meanings have been lost. In these cases, the translator attempted to interpret the words and phrases as best as possible based on the context of the word and the translator’s opinion of what the author was attempting to convey. In this process, each translator used many techniques to convey their interpretation of the original message over the centuries to their culture. The resulting Bible translations are commonly categorized as: formal equivalence translations, dynamic equivalence translations and idiomatic or paraphrastic translations.

 Formal equivalence translation – permits the reader to identify himself as fully as possible with a person in the source-language context, and to understand as much as he can of the customs, manner of thought, and means of expression. For example, a phrase such as “holy kiss” (Romans 16:16) would be rendered literally, and would probably be supplemented with a footnote explaining that this was a customary method of greeting in New Testament times.

Dynamic equivalence translation – the ultimate purpose of the translation is focused on its impact upon its intended audience, to fulfill the same purpose in the new language as the original did in the language in which it was written. e.g.: “greeted with a holy kiss” might be translated as “greeted with a hand-shake.” It achieves the same dynamic response with its modern audience as the original did with its ancient audience.

Idiomatic or Paraphrastic translation – retains the basic meaning while using different words, intending to achieve greater clarity.

What Child is This?

I like this time of year primarily because of the Christmas carols.  A few years ago Sandy and I did a monthly service at a local nursing home, and in preparing for our first Christmas service I researched the history of many of the old songs.  I found the stories behind them as inspiring as the songs themselves.

 Take Silent Night for example.  The words had been penned by an assistant pastor of a little church in the Austrian Alps as a poem.  When their organ failed a couple days before their Christmas Eve service he asked the church organist to come up with a melody that could be sung with a guitar.   Through a series of amazing events (see http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/silent.htm) the song made its way all around Europe and now is translated into more than 300 languages.

 Beginning with the weekend after Thanksgiving, my pastor did a series of messages on the Songs of Christmas – each of the four messages focusing on a song taken directly from Holy Scripture.

The Benedictus was the song of thanksgiving uttered by Zechariah on the occasion of the birth of his son, John the Baptist, as recorded in Luke 1:68-79.  Its name comes from its first words in Latin (Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel”).  It was first introduced into the Church’s “early morning prayers” back in the 6th century.

The Magnificat (which is Latin for: [My soul] magnifies) is also known as The Song of Mary, taken from Luke 1:46-55.  After Mary greets Elizabeth, who is pregnant with the future John the Baptist, the child moves within Elizabeth’s womb. When Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith: Mary speaks these words in response.  It found its way into many Christian denominations as Evening Prayer.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Latin for glory to God in the Highest) are the words sung by the multitude of angels after Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds as described in Like 2:8-14.  The praise of the angels with other words added to form a hymn is known as the Greater Doxology.  The words have also been incorporated into many more recent Christmas songs, such as Angels we have heard on high.  The words have also been made a part of main worship services.

The Nunc dimittis (which is Latin, meaning “Now you dismiss”) is also known as the Song of Simeon.  The Gospel tells us that Simeon was a devout Jew who had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Savior.  When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for the ceremony of consecration of the firstborn son (about 40 days after the birth), Simeon was there, and he took Jesus into his arms and uttered the words recorded in Luke 2:29–32.  These have been incorporated into Night Prayers and other services in many traditional churches.

 Whatever song-of-the-season happens to be your favorite, use it to draw you and your family closer to God.  What every good Christmas song should do is remind you that what people do to you is unimportant.  The only thing that really matters is what Jesus did for each of us individually.

 What Child is This? is one of my favorites.  It was actually written by an insurance salesman, who at the age of 29 was bedridden for many months due to a near fatal illness.  During this trying time William Chatterton Dix began to write hymns, including this one which is sung to the melody of the traditional English folk song Greensleeves.

What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap, is sleeping?  Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing: haste, haste to bring him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary!

Why lies He in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?  Good Christian, fear for sinners here, the silent Word is pleasing.

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh, come peasant king to own Him, the King of kings, salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise the song on high, the Virgin sings her lullaby: Joy, joy, for Christ is born, the Babe, the Son of Mary.

 What Child is This?  That’s a very important question. Because this child grew up and became a man.  And this man began a ministry that has spanned the globe.  And as this man walked the highways and byways of Israel, He told us Who He was – and then He asked the people that He met – if they believed Him.  “Who do you say I am?”

 “What child is this?”  “Who do you say I am?”   Questions that every single person on this earth must answer.   Each of our destinies depend on how we answer those questions.  Some people called Jesus the son of Joseph.  That was a mistake.  The Bible clearly points this out.

 The Bible calls Him the son of David, the son of Mary, the son of man and the Son of God.  He was the son of David because He was the rightful king – the rejected king – the returning king promised to Israel.  He was no doubt the son of Mary; but because of that, the people closest to Him questioned His authority.  To them, He was an “average Joe.”  His birth was seemingly impossible.  And His birth was steadfastly investigated: by Joseph, by the shepherds, by the wise men, by Herod, by angels, even by the devil.  He was the son of man Who shared our problems of the flesh (physical weariness; hunger and thirst; physical pain; and temptation, but He never sinned!)  He submitted to the purpose of the Father and He became an example for us to follow: an example of obedience and patience and servanthood to others.  And most definitely He is the Son of God.  He is the only sinless man who ever lived – the only sacrifice that could take away sin – the only Savior who can take you to heaven.

 But what did Jesus call Himself?

  • To the 12 Apostles – He said: “I Am The Way, The Truth, And The Life, nobody comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
  • To the chief priests and the Pharisees – He called Himself “the stone which the builders rejected and the chief cornerstone” of the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 21:42)
  • To a woman that He met at a well in Samaria – Jesus called Himself a fountain of water which brings eternal life – the Christ, the Messiah and our Savior. (John 4)
  • To the multitude of people that He taught outside the city of Capernaum – He referred to Himself as Bread from heaven, the Son of His Father, sent by God to bring eternal life. (John 6)
  • To a religious leader named Nicodemus – He called Himself the light of the world and told him he must be born again to enter into His Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. (John 3)
  • And to the Apostle Paul – Jesus revealed that every person must confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead, in order to be saved. (Romans 10:9, 10)

 From a very young age, the first few verses of the Gospel of John have held a special place in my heart – probably because they summarize the real purpose of Christ’s coming.

 In the beginning was 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.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

 It is these words and claims of Jesus that are “the rest of the story” – and what we as Christians celebrate this Christmas time.  If you haven’t already made a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ before, I challenge you to do so this week – before you celebrate His birthday.

Let us stop thinking and being too small

If your dad was Bill Gates, I wouldn’t expect to find you pan-handling in the streets of Detroit.  No!  You’d be staying at five star hotels when you traveled, and well-collared people would be seeking your advice and support for their projects.  If your great-great grand-dad had been John D. Rockefeller, you wouldn’t be complaining about the latest increase in grocery prices.  No!  People with political aspirations would be seeking you out to get your endorsement in their run for public office and university presidents would be lining up to ask you to make commencement speeches.  Your sphere of influence would be great around the nation and the world.

 But isn’t our spiritual Daddy greater than either of these two mere human beings?  Why can’t we see that?  God actually invites His children to seek positions of influence.  And He promises to meet those aspirations when the motives are pure and the intentions are righteous.  “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings. Do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.  For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited.”  (Isaiah 54:2-3) This was a promise He made to His people Israel.  But isn’t the Church spiritual Israel.  If so, then this promise applies to us as well.

 This is what Paul seems to imply in his letter to the Galatians, when he quotes the first verse of Isaiah 54: For it is written in the Scriptures, “Rejoice, O barren woman, who has not given birth to children; break forth into a joyful shout, you who are not feeling birth pangs, for the desolate woman has many more children than she who has a husband.”  He then goes on to explain that the one initially barren, now the spiritual “mother of us all” represents the New Covenant church.

 Many of us wish, even yearn for the day that God may ask something incredible of us.  But why not just seek that of God ourselves?  We have to get beyond just imagining great things, to the point of believing that great things, the “naturally impossible” can become a reality to us.  After all, didn’t Jesus say, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (Mark 10)

 What was “this” that Jesus was referring to?  In the specific incident cited, He was answering His disciples’ inquiry about what it takes for a man to be saved.  But I believe it goes much beyond that.  Remember, these men had just watched a rich young ruler walk away from Jesus, sadly unwilling to give away any of his riches to the poor as Jesus had suggested he should.  He apparently did not trust that by giving such up for “Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s,” he would “receive back a hundredfold – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.”  I believe that Jesus was not only declaring a truth that pertained to salvation; but that He was also challenging His disciples to taste everything God has to offer – as it was available to them and is available to us personally.

 I’m convinced of this because not long after this incident He gave His followers the lesson of the fig tree, after which He proclaimed: “… whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”

 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 records how an honorable man named Jabez asked boldly to be blessed by God, “Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let Your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.  And under the Covenant of Promise as Paul often referred to the Church, greater are our children, greater is our healing, greater is our success, greater are our achievements than anything Jabez could ever have hoped for.

 Extend that thought to anything you have dreamed of in the past.  Don’t be afraid.  God doesn’t give you a dream, a vision, a desire that He isn’t capable of fulfilling in your life.  You won’t be ashamed, you won’t be humiliated and you won’t be disgraced.  You will spread out to the left and to the right as God has said.  You will spread out and be a blessing and receive a blessing.  Don’t look at what you are now; rather, see the image of the person God intends for you to become.  See yourself stretching out in the gifts God has given and wants to give you.

 God expects His people to stretch themselves and reach beyond their natural ability.  You may think you’ve tried all, done all and failed.  Get back up, stretch yourself and try again.  Remember the words of the prophet Zechariah: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, Says the Lord of hosts.”

Fear and Disunity have no place in God’s Kingdom

 One of the last things that Jesus did in His earthly ministry before He went to the cross was to pray to His Father that all of His followers “be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”  Yet one of the biggest problems His first leaders had to address just a decade or two later was disagreement and disunity on issues of Christian doctrine.  Listen to Paul plead with his Corinthian converts: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”  And this remains one of the greatest challenge the Church faces in the 21st century.  For today there are tens of thousands of unique Christian “denominations.”  Nearly all agree on the central doctrines of the Christian faith as defined in the Apostles Creed; yet the focus too often is on the differences defined by traditions, rites and issues of the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, and papal primacy.

 I was born into the largest of Christian denominations and I was taught to fear and avoid “those people” and places of worship of other denominations.  It brings to mind an instance in the life of Jesus when He straightened out the misguided thinking of a woman he met at a well in Samaria.  In the ancient world, there was no greater a mutually contemptuous hostility between people groups than that held by the Jews and the Samaritans.  It was partially politically based and partially religious.  And Jesus’ response to the woman’s attempt to debate the issue of where best to worship God was the following: “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain (Mount Gerizim), nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 I remember the first time I saw the musical South Pacific.  I immediately went out and bought the album.  Then a few years after it was remade for TV, I bought the DVD.  I watch it periodically.  I’ve always liked the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, but I also never wanted to forget the destructive nature of fear for people one chooses not to understand or have a relationship with, a central theme portrayed so dramatically.  In the film, love ultimately overcomes that fear for those who survive the ignorance and hatred of the people around them who try to drag them down to their level.  One of the most provocative songs of the musical could have been taken directly out of the Bible. “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear.  You’ve got to be taught from year to year.  It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear.   You’ve got to be carefully taught.  You’ve got to be taught to be afraid – of people whose eyes are oddly made, and people whose skin is a different shade.  You’ve got to be carefully taught.  You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate.  You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

 It took me thirty-seven years to find out how to worship God in spirit and in truth.  And when I did, I found I had become one of “those people,” to be feared and avoided by many of my former closest friends and relatives.  While the Church around the world faces the fires and persecution of the prince of darkness, intent on its total destruction, I have a difficult time understanding why Christians themselves stand in circles with flamethrowers aimed at each other, helping the enemy.  Evangelist and author Ray Comfort recently reminded many of his readers, “Every moment that you and I spend arguing about theological interpretation is time we have lost forever that could have been spent in prayer for the unsaved or in seeking to save that which is lost.” The Apostle Paul said it this way: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 Is it possible that two opposing truths can walk together?  All that is missing is some information for them to harmonize.  “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” The day will come when we will understand all things, and it is then that we will be glad that we didn’t cause division in the Church, and “sow discord among brethren,” which is something God hates.

 Consider for example the Calvinist, the Arminian and the Catholic positions on the state of the human soul, election and grace.  The Calvinist belief is in the soul’s total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.  The Arminian position is at odds with each, contending that apart from grace man cannot save himself or do anything truly good, conditional election, unlimited atonement, resistible grace, and the possibility of apostasy.  Then the Catholic position partially agrees and partially disagrees with the Calvinists and partially agrees and partially disagrees with the Arminians.  Believers on all sides point to a multitude of verses to back their theology.  Just don’t let your choice cut you off from others in the Body of Christ who may believe differently.

 Great men and women of God admit they don’t have all the answers, and put God’s priorities ahead of their personal and denominational prejudices.  The great 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon proclaimed divine sovereignty, yet he also preached man’s responsibility, although he admitted that he didn’t understand how they fit together.  He exhorted sinners: “Believe in Jesus, and though you are now in slippery places your feet shall soon be set upon a rock of safety.” And he preached that it is the sinner’s responsibility to trust in the Savior: “Trust Christ with your soul and He will save it. I know you will not do this unless the Holy Spirit constrains you, but this does not remove your responsibility.”

 I recently heard a message given by another great man, one of the staunchest advocates of the Calvinist position on predestination, John Piper.  Yet this particular message talked about the importance of defining terms and establishing assumptions – something that often eliminates 90% of our theological disagreements.  Though my position is not Calvinist, I happen to agree with all eight of his assumptions.  See what you think about them.

1.   The Bible is the infallible Word of God, verbally inspired by God, without error in its original manuscripts.

2.   Being faithful to Holy Scripture is more important than being faithful to either Calvinism or Arminianism.

3.   Right thinking about what the Bible teaches about God and man and salvation really matters.  Bad teaching dishonors God and hurts people.  Churches that sever the root of truth may flourish for a season, but will eventually wither and turn into something different than a Christian church.

4.   The work of the Holy Spirit and the pursuing of His work in prayer is essential for grasping the truth of Scripture.

5.   Thinking is essential for grasping Biblical truths.

6.   God ordains that there be teachers in the church to help the Body grasp and apply the truth of Scripture.

7.   Like all fallen, finite humans, we “see in a mirror dimly.”  We don’t know everything there is to know and we don’t know anything perfectly.  Nor do we claim to see what we know more clearly than anyone else may see it.  But we have a spirit of faith – so we know many things truly and confidently, because of God’s revelation and His Holy Spirit.  This is knowledge for which we each should be willing to die.

8.   Nevertheless, there remain things that God has not chosen to reveal to us.  So we must be content with mystery.

 I’m positive that most leaders of those thousands of distinct Christian denominations would contend that their traditions and rites and doctrinal positions are based on a love of the truth.  Yet I suggest that if its fruit is disunity and fear and avoidance of other Christian brothers and sisters, they are more likely rooted in sinful pride. Be careful!

 

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God

 On July 9, 1982 at 10:30 in the evening, my life changed forever.  I don’t mention that moment in time simply because, without a hand being laid on me I was saved, miraculously healed and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit – though it is all that.   I mention it because that’s when the Word of God first became alive to me.  It’s not that I hadn’t studied and read portions of the Bible before – because I had – in fact, quite a lot.  But for the first time I actually desired to read it for more than an attempt to get a good grade in a theology class, or to appear knowledgeable in front of a group of other religious people.  I began reading it to get to know God and to know what He thought of me, and what His plans were for me.

 And so I began doing what many of you probably did and may still do – I went from church to church, from evangelical meeting to evangelical meeting, thirsting for the knowledge of the Word that God had revealed to these preachers and teachers.  And I began carrying a pocketful of highlight pens around with me – to every church service, to every evangelical meeting, even when I did my own Bible reading.  Pink and yellow, even light blue and green, and violet – and before long, my Bible began looking like a rainbow throughout.

 It wasn’t long before I also began keeping a couple of Bibles in use at all times: one I called my working Bible, another that I kept at home, and used for my daily reading and meditation.  My “working Bible” followed and continues to follow me to church, and to counseling sessions and into many hospitals and nursing homes.  Actually the only part that’s survived over the last three decades is the leather Bible cover, which is the best $10 I’ve ever spent.  Twenty-eight years ago I bought it from a teenage girl in a Young People’s Church that Sandy and I pastored.  Her father had lost his job and was making a lot of crafts to support his family.  This cover has survived more than one worn-out-from-use NKJV.

 Anyway, a few years ago, a former pastor of ours began his message by reading 2 Timothy 3:16-17.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  Then he opened his Bible and held it up revealing pages highlighted like mine at the time in a rainbow of colors.  He repeated the 2 Timothy scripture.  All Scripture .…”  His message then encouraged the congregation to focus on the non-highlighted verses in their Bible.  That day I put away my highlight pens.

 Like every other Christian, I have my favorite scriptures that have spoken to me in times of turmoil and need; yet I try to pay attention to every word in every line I read.  The result is that the Holy Spirit often draws my attention to otherwise obscure verses and characters in the Bible.

 Many a hidden message

 Such was the case this past week when I was asked to speak at a luncheon and fellowship.  I felt the Lord leading me to encourage these lovely people; some who have had difficult upbringings.  To do this, He led me to study and share the “born-again,” regenerated lives of two young people who grew up in the household of Herod the tetrarch (Herod Antipas) – the very man who murdered John the Baptist and who lived a corrupt and debased life with his own niece.  Manaen and Joanna may not be household names to most Christians, yet their names are recorded in heaven’s book of life.

According to Acts 13, Manaen was among the Antioch prophets and teachers who gathered to fast and pray and lay hands on Saul and Barnabas and send them on their first missionary journey. While Luke 8 identifies Joanne as one of the women Jesus healed of evil spirits and infirmities, who then joined His band of followers, even providing financial support for Him and His apostles.  Later chapters describe how she was also among those women who followed Jesus to the cross, then to the tomb, and who even showed up Easter morning, planning to anoint His body – instead finding angels guarding the empty tomb.

 While the details of their lives and how they came to be saved are sketchy, there’s much we can read between the lines to give us encouragement in our own walk with God.  Somehow both Manaen and Joanna found God in the midst of one of the most evil families in history.  Manaen was the foster-brother of Herod Antipas; while Joanna was the wife of Antipas’s steward.  Manaen was probably brought up and educated in Rome with Antipas and his brothers; while Joanna’s husband likely was the tutor of Herod’s children, in addition to being tasked to manage his property.

 Even their names reflect their new lives in Christ: Manaen means comforter or consoler; while Joanna’s name means “Jehovah has shown favor.”  They were both persons who Jesus healed and set free, and who came to honor Christ.  In other words, they were just like you and me.

 Some theologians believe that Manaen was the “nobleman from Capernaum” described in John 4, who came to Jesus when his son was dying.  It might have taken something as dramatic as a miracle to change the heart of the foster brother of Herod.  A father, reluctant to leave his very sick son even to seek aid, tries to convince Jesus to “come down and heal his son.”  Jesus increases the nobleman’s belief in His power by showing him that his words take effect without regard to distance, and the man’s faith grows.  He even leads his entire household to the Lord.

 Joanna, a sick woman healed by Christ, becomes a loyal witness first in the Herod household, then a generous supporter of Christ and His followers as they preach the good news throughout Galilee and Judea.  Her joy turns to sorrow as she observes, then mourns His death and prepares to anoint His lifeless body.  But the joy returns as she becomes one of the first to proclaim her Lord’s resurrection.

 What God did for Manaen and Joanna, He’ll do for anyone who asks and seeks His help.  We were each created to add value to the world around us – no matter what our station in life or what difficulties defined our past.  God sees the potential in each of us – because He planted it there.

 God made each of us exactly the way He intended, and He equipped us with everything we need.  We have the strength (through His Holy Spirit) to stand strong in the midst of difficult situations, and the wisdom it takes to make good decisions.  Each of us has an assignment; but we also have access to the gifts, talents, and knowledge to accomplish it.  We have more in us that we realize, and we can accomplish more than we ever thought possible.

 All Scripture

 The next time you are tempted to skip over a few verses of scripture because it seems dry, or merely is a list of saints’ names or the like, reconsider that the Holy Spirit may well want to open up to you (perhaps for the benefit of others as well) some amazing truth in those “dry” words.  For “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable ….”

 

Spiritual Commerce with the Creator

I received a very good message on prayer this weekend.  Pastor A’s messages always seem to challenge me to reassess some theological point or two that I previously took for granted; and this Sunday morning was no different.  While I understood his description of the loving Father -child relationship between God and His human creations, and God’s desire to communicate with us constantly, I wasn’t sure that I completely agreed with Pastor A’s over-simplified perception of this relationship.  Upon returning home I was led to re-read an 1871 sermon given by Charles Spurgeon, that I still consider the best message on prayer that I’ve ever come across (even given the old-English verbiage.)  It’s entitled “The Throne of Grace,” and is taken from the verse in Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

 In the introduction, Reverend Spurgeon succinctly describes prayer as follows: “True prayer is not a mere mental exercise, nor a vocal performance, but it is deeper far than that—it is spiritual commerce with the Creator of heaven and earth. God is a Spirit unseen of mortal eye, and only to be perceived by the inner man.  Our spirit within us, begotten by the Holy Ghost at our regeneration, discerns the Great Spirit, communes with Him, prefers to Him its requests, and receives from Him answers of peace. It is a spiritual business from beginning to end; and its aim and object end not with man, but reach to God himself.”  The rest of the sermon takes us step-by-step, first to God’s throne, then to His grace, then grace on the throne and finally His sovereignty manifesting itself and resplendent in grace.

 God’s Throne

   When asked by His disciples to teach them how to pray, Jesus began with the words, “Our Father.”  Many times in our zealousness to convince believers that God actually wants to have the relationship of a father to His children, we tend to humanize God – forgetting  the rest of Jesus’ characterization of His Father: “Our Father, Who art in heaven.  Hallowed be Thy name.”  God is not just an ordinary father.  He’s Our Father, Who art in heaven.

 If we forget this, we will tend to downplay the use of the term “God on His Throne,” just because we think it was only used because people of ancient civilizations understood kings; that, if written today the Bible would use the term President or Prime Minister.  I don’t believe that for one minute.  In the “Lord’s prayer” and elsewhere throughout the Bible we can clearly deduce that God intended Sovereign Rule for the government of His creation.  Who better than the Absolute Moral Authority of our natural and spiritual universe to establish the principles and rules by which all spirit beings must relate to Himself and to each other.  Unfortunately, people in present day Western culture know very little about kingdoms.  Most nations in the West are constitutional democracies or republics.  Of the few nations that retained their monarchies, most have limited their roles primarily to things ceremonial in nature, with governmental duties administered tripartite, by an executive, a legislature, and a judiciary.  Because our understanding of earthly kingdoms has been limited to what we’ve read and studied in grammar and high school history books, or what we’ve seen at the cinema, our society seems to have developed a universal distaste for and a distrust of kingdoms.  These feelings toward earthly monarchies shouldn’t surprise anyone – since earthly kings have the same weaknesses and frailties of character as the rest of mankind.

  Charles Spurgeon was British and understood monarchies – both their good and their bad aspects.  In his words, “Emperors are but the shadows of God’s imperial power.”   It’s imperative that we acknowledge God on His throne when we pray.  We’re told to come both boldly and in a spirit of lowly reverence.  God sees us as a part of the royal family, so there’s no need to fear Him; still we’re entering “holy ground.”  Using Rev Spurgeon’s terms: we must approach with devout joyfulness, with complete submission, with enlarged expectations, in a spirit of unstaggering confidence, and with the deepest sincerity.

 God’s Grace

 Followers of Christ are not called to the throne of law or to the throne of ultimate justice.  We’re called to “come boldly unto the throne of grace.”  We don’t have to worry about the words that we use in our prayers as not being perfect – for the faults of my prayer will be overlooked.  The Lord Jesus Christ takes care to alter and amend every prayer before He presents it, and He makes the prayer perfect with His perfection, and prevalent with His own merits.   Also, we don’t have to be concerned about our own faults (now forgiven) – for they shall not prevent the success of the petitioner’s prayer.  And if we forget to include something that’s on our heart, the Holy Spirit will interpret our desires: “all of our needs will be supplied,… all of our miseries will be compassionated.”

 Grace enthroned

 On God’s throne is grace personified, Jesus Christ, Who presents our petitions to the Father.  He sits on the throne because He won it by His obedience and victory over sin.  His Name is above all names.  He sits on the throne by right, because He’s both just and the Justifier.  He sits on the throne in power, i.e.: unlimited might – made available to all who knock, ask and seek, in His Name.  And He sits on the throne in glory, in demonstrations of the exercise of His authority and power as delegated to His followers.

 Sovereignty resplendent in glory,—the glory of grace

 Though grace is on the throne, it’s still a throne.  As I said earlier, that’s one of the hardest truths for many believers to understand.  God’s sovereignty is much different that the sovereignty seen in governments throughout the world – especially in dictatorships and totalitarian regimes.  As Rev Spurgeon describes, “The sovereignty of God to a believer, to a pleader, to one who comes to God in Christ, is always exercised in pure grace….  Sovereignty has placed itself under the bonds of love….   God will do as He wills; but, on the mercy seat, He is under bonds – bonds of His own making, for He has entered into covenant with Christ…. God is bound to us by His promises….  Every covenant promise has been endorsed and sealed with blood.”

False Religion handcuffs God’s People

Age seems to have mellowed me.  These days it takes a lot to get me upset or angry.  But there are a couple exceptions: one is the hurting of the most innocent and helpless among us, especially those still in the womb; a second is what the apostle Paul described as the “having a form of godliness but denying its power” – particularly when that’s ascribed by church leaders and others of influence.  And it’s this latter that I want to focus on today.

 Let’s look at the complete scripture from which this phrase was extracted: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!   For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.   Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.”  2 Timothy 3:1-9

 This scripture has much to say about such a time as this that we live in, for it is indeed about “the last days.”  1.  It links current events with some of the circumstances surrounding Israel’s exodus from Egypt – in particular the battle between false religion and God’s power; 2. It associates false religion with all the other evils mankind is driven to, because of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  3.  It blames false religion for the enslavement of many people to traditions, rituals and laws – thereby keeping them from the grace and blessing God intended for them.

 The linkage between current events with Israel’s exodus from Egypt

 Janis and Jamberes are names traditionally given to the magicians who contended with Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh, as described in Exodus 7.  They represent the false religion of Egypt.  Each time the power of God was demonstrated before Pharaoh, he called upon his magicians to try and replicate it.  And each time, God’s power overwhelmed the other.  You would think that would have settled the issue for the people of God, so that they would no longer question God’s power; but their ambiguous acceptance of God as their sole authority followed them throughout their journey to the Promised Land.

 Even as they stood at the border, miracle after miracle later, ten of the twelve spies that Moses selected from among the leaders of the people expressed doubt that God’s promise of giving them the land would come to pass.  They saw themselves as grasshoppers in the midst of giants – rather than as God’s mighty army.  They even wanted to stone Caleb and Joshua when they spoke words of faith in God’s ability to bring them into the land and give it to them.  And the result: all the adults except for Caleb and Joshua missed God’s best – as they died in the wilderness, rather than entering into His promise.

 Isn’t this the reaction of many traditionalist church leaders today to any Christian who speaks words of faith in ALL of God’s promises?  When they read Psalm 103, they pick and choose the portions that they buy into.  The “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!”  and “Who forgives all your iniquities” parts are OK; but the “forget not all His benefits:, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s,” well – God didn’t really intend those promises to apply to any of the physical needs of His people!

 I say, “Hogwash!”  Yet, for those who say God won’t bless them with good health, emotional peace and other magnificent grace – He won’t.  They’ll continue to wander in life’s deserts.

 Association of false religion with other evils

(the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life)

 I guess “faith people” shouldn’t be too surprised at the criticism and persecution directed at us from within the Church itself; because look at what happened to David when he believed God and spoke his mind.  When he heard the Philistine Goliath insulting God and His people, David took the challenge and boldly declared he would defeat the giant.  He trusted God would be with him in every challenge, because he had experienced God’s faithfulness previously when he faced down and killed a lion and a bear.  He knew he wouldn’t have to face this new challenge alone.  He believed God would fight that battle for him and with him.

 But his “elder brother” got angry.  First he insulted him and tried to put David down: “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?”  Then he tried to discourage him by accusing him of just acting out of pride: “I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”

 Isn’t this what many of the “elder brothers” in the Church often try to do with people or ministries of great faith.  Because the elder brothers belong to denominations that have been around for a few to several hundred years, their pride takes over.  They proclaim “We know better!” rather than ask, “What does God have to say about it?”  They proclaim “God is able,” yet distrust that “God is willing.”

 It’s even sadder when leaders follow in the footsteps of King Saul, who saw the people applauding David for the results of his greater faith and, instead of praising God and working with his brother in the Lord, he wanted to destroy him.  Separation from God in matters of trust and faith opens the door for the devil to attack and tempt in other areas.

 False religion leads to enslavement to traditions, rituals and laws

 As we jump forward a few hundred years to the first century Church, we see even the great apostle Peter temporarily falling into this trap of religion.  One moment we see Peter receiving a great vision from God of His desire to save all people, Jews and Gentiles alike; followed by Peter’s leading the Roman Cornelius to the Lord and baptizing his entire family.  Yet, only a short time later Peter is seen avoiding visiting Gentile households, whenever other Church leaders come to town.  Paul had to call Peter out on his hypocrisy.

 This is what false religion does: it tries to keep people enslaved to traditions, rituals, and laws and fearful of speaking what God has revealed to them to be the truth.  This form of godliness creeps in wearing a mantle of “God’s sovereignty,” or His holiness, or His mercy and grace – but denying selected promises of God.  God is sovereign.  God is Holy.  God is merciful.  And God administrates His grace to all who will receive it.  But God is also a healer and a miracle worker and a deliverer.  And with the same forcefulness and directness that He commanded: “Go and preach the Gospel,” He also commanded, “Lay hands on the sick and they will recover” and “cast out demons” and “prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers.”

 The same New Testament that declares a Christian to be saved by the Blood of Jesus also declares him and her to be an ambassador for Christ and a warrior in His army.

 It’s OK to get angry when Religion preaches a False Gospel

A Christian is taught to be loving and kind and patient and meek in presenting the Gospel to the unsaved.  That’s all true.  But when a supposedly fellow Christian, especially a leader preaches a partial Gospel, or denies the power of God, or any of God’s promises, or disputes the delegation of authority and power to the Body of Christ (the Church), then we’re obligated to speak the truth.  Just like Paul contended with Peter in regard to the availability of salvation to all mankind, so must we sometimes contend in love with our brothers and sisters.  The most important thing is that ALL truth be made available to EVERY believer so they can live a victorious life on earth as well as in eternity.

Holy Week – a time to recall and give thanks

This week I’m dedicating my blog to Holy Week, which began yesterday, Palm Sunday, and ends on Easter Sunday.  My hope is that this would provide you and your family with a resource each day of this week to recall and give honor and praise for our Lord’s supreme sacrifice of love for each of us individually and corporately.

Palm Sunday began a very important week of celebration in the Christian church.  It’s the first day of Holy Week.  Holy Week is a time in the Christian church when we celebrate the last days of Christ’s ministry on earth – the coming of Jesus to Jerusalem, his suffering, death, burial and resurrection.  With these events, Jesus brought to a climax the prophesies concerning the coming of His kingdom, and the institution of the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

Holy Week is a marvelous opportunity for Christian growth.  Our walk with Christ can really mature during Holy Week – we grow as the Holy Spirit works through the Gospel that we hear and receive during these days.  Each of the days of the week celebrates an important event in the last days of our Lord on earth.

The trip to Jerusalem:  Jesus’ first stop on His final trip to Jerusalem was the town of Bethany, the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus – where He is anointed.

  Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.   There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.  Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.  But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denariiand given to the poor?”   This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.  But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.  For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”   John 12:1-8

The Mark 14 account of this same event adds these words that Jesus said about what Mary had done:  “She has done what she could.  She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.  Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
Following Mary’s anointing of Jesus, one of His own disciples became so jealous that he decided to betray Him to the Jewish leaders who wanted Jesus dead.
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them.   And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money.   So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.  Mark 14:10-11
The Jewish leaders not only wanted to kill Jesus, but also His friend Lazarus.

Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there [at Martha’s and Mary’s home]; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.  But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also,   because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.  John 12:9-11

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday commemorates our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem five days before His crucifixion.  This day takes its name from the fact that, as Jesus approached Jerusalem on a donkey, the huge crowd that followed carried olive and palm branches as they praised Him.   The people hailed Him as the long awaited “Son of David,” the Messiah.  When He had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.  And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here.   And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them.   But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of him.”  Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him.  And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”  But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”  Luke 19:28-40  It’s also recorded in Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1- 11, and John 12:12-19.

This event was prophesied by Zechariah 9:9  Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Prayer:  Loving God, I am just beginning to realize how much you love me. Your son, Jesus was humble and obedient.  He fulfilled your will for him by becoming human and suffering with us.  I ask you for the desire to become more humble   so that my own life might also bear witness to you.  I want to use the small sufferings I have in this world to give you glory.  Please, Lord, guide my mind with your truth.  Strengthen my life by the example of Jesus. Help me to be with Jesus in this week as he demonstrates again his total love for me.  He died so that I would no longer be separated from you. Help me to feel how close you are and to live in union with you.

Holy Monday

Holy Monday remembers the day in which Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem.  Jesus was staying outside of the city of Jerusalem, in the town of Bethany, probably with His friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. So after the crowd’s exhortations and praise, He left the city for the night.

Two important event happened as Jesus drew near to Jerusalem the next morning.  First He wept over the “blindness” of the people of the city. The Bible warns us not to depend on the honor of men – for they will praise you one day, and the next day they’ll want to destroy you.  Jesus knew this and so, the day after He was praised in the streets of Jerusalem, He cried for that same city and its inhabitants; because He knew they were about to turn on Him.   Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.  For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”  Luke 19:41-44

Second, He cursed the fig treeNow the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.  In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”  And His disciples heard it.  Mark 11:12-14  He did this to teach His disciples a lesson on prayer and faith; which He taught them the next morning.  And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?”  So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.  And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”  Matthew 21:20-22

Then Jesus entered the city and cleansed the TempleSo they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.  And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.  Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”   And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching.  When evening had come, He went out of the city.  Mark 11:15-19

Jesus was referring to the words of Isaiah and Jeremiah.  Both spoke of God’s grace extended outside Judaism and also served as warnings to all to keep the Temple of God pure and undefiled.  Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants— everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant— even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer.  Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.  The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.”  (Isaiah 56:6-8)  Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”–safe to do all these detestable things?   Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD.  Jeremiah 7:9-11

Prayer: God of love, My prayer is simple: Your son, Jesus, suffered and died for me. I know only that I cannot have real strength unless I rely on you. I cannot feel protected from my many weaknesses until I turn to you for forgiveness and your unalterable love. Help me to share this strength, protection and love with others.

Holy Tuesday
Holy Tuesday remembers the time when the churchmen tried to trap Jesus into making a blasphemous remark.  The raising of Lazarus from the dead a few weeks earlier was probably the last straw for the Jewish leaders, who began to fear that the people would favor Jesus over them and they would lose their positions of authority.  Caiaphas:  [high priest that year] said: “… it is expedient for usthat one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” [The high priest, without realizing what he was saying, was actually prophesying that Jesus would die for the salvation of all the children of God.]

53 Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death…. 55 And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. 56 Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, “What do you think—that He will not come to the feast?” 57 Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.  John 11:53-57

En route to Jerusalem, Matt 16, 17 and 20 describe three times that Jesus predicted His death and resurrection.

First:  21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 

22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”
23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Second22 Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful.”

Third17 Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify.  And the third day He will rise again.”

So when the religious leaders tried to entrap Jesus, He was ready for them.  His passion and death was only going to happen on His timetable – not theirs.  Then they came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Him.   And they said to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?”  But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me.”   And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men’”—they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed.  So they answered and said to Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”  Mark 11:27-33

Prayer: God of such unwavering love, how do I celebrate the passion and death of Jesus? I often want to look the other way  and not watch, not stay with Jesus in his suffering.  Give me the strength to see his love with honesty and compassion and to feel deeply your own forgiveness and mercy for me. Help me to understand how to “celebrate” this week.  I want be able to bring my weaknesses and imperfections with me as I journey with Jesus this week, so aware of his love.

Other scriptures for contemplation: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14; 1Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36

Holy Wednesday

Holy Wednesday is often called “spy” Wednesday, because it commemorates the day when Judas Iscariot became a spy or a traitor – agreeing to show the chief priests where they could easily capture Jesus.  Mark 14 indicates that Judas was upset when Jesus rebuked him for criticizing the woman who anointed Him with the expensive oil, and thereafter went directly to the chief priests to betray Him.  Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.  So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.  Matthew 26:14-16

Prayer: My savior, You invite me to share in the glory of the resurrection? Please stay with me as I struggle to see how accepting the crosses of my life will free me from the power of the one who wants only to destroy my love and trust in you. Help me to be humble and accepting like your Son, Jesus. I want to turn to You with the same trust He had in Your love. Save me, Lord. Only You can save me.

Other scriptures for contemplation: Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12:1-3

Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday remembers the events in the upper room the night before Jesus died.  These events are described in all four Gospels.   Matthew, Mark, and Luke focus on the institution of the Lord’s Supper and the eating of the Passover meal, while John focuses on the words of Jesus and His washing of the disciples’ feet.

Knowing that it was time, Jesus called His disciples together to celebrate one last time together, and to teach them that what they needed to know to carry on His work.   

 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?” 

And He sent out two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him.   Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’   Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us.”   So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover.  In the evening He came with the twelve.   Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.”  And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?” And another said, “Is it I?”  He answered and said to them, “It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish.  The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.”  Mark 14:12-21   

And Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”  Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.   And He said to them, “This is My blood of the newcovenant, which is shed for many.   Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”  Mark 14:22-25

Then Jesus taught His disciples the importance of serving and loving one another.  

And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.   Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”  Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”  Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”  Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”  Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”   Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”   For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”
So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?   You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.    If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.   For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.  Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.    If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
John 13:2-17

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  Mark 14:26

Jesus knew that His disciples would temporarily abandon Him – so He even warned them about this.

Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘ I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’  “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”
Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.”  Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”  But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”  And they all said likewise.  
Mark 14:27-31

The Prayer in the Garden

Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”   And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed.   Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.  Stay here and watch.”  He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.   And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You.  Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”
Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour?   Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words.   And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.
Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.   Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”
Mark 14:32-42

Prayer: Loving Provider, you gather me in this upper room with your son, to be fed by your love. At that supper, Jesus told us to “love one another,” and I know that is the heart of his gift, his sacrifice for me. I ask that I might find the source of my own heart, the meaning for my own life, in that Eucharist. Guide me to the fullness of Your love and life.

Other scriptures for contemplation: Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Good Friday

Good Friday of course remembers Christ’s crucifixion.  Jesus was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem, at the top of the Calvary hill.  Philippians 2:8 tells us that Christ became, for our sake, obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.   Isaiah 53 and other Old Testament prophets told of His coming sufferings and death.

Then Judas arrived, with the temple guard to arrest Him.

And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.  Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely.”  As soon as he had come, immediately he went up to Him and said to Him, “Rabbi, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.  Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him.   And one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me?   I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”
Then they all forsook Him and fled.    Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.
Mark 14:43-52

Jesus was first taken to faces His accusers in the Sanhedrin.

And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes.   But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire.

 Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none.   For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.  Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’”   But not even then did their testimony agree.  And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?”  But He kept silent and answered nothing.  Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses?   You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?”  And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.  Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands.
Mark 14:53-65

We know the rest of the story – that Jesus was then taken to Pontius Pilate, where He was further tortured, then finally sentenced to die on a cross – in spite of His complete innocence.  He allowed this to happen – He could have ended it at any time – but He didn’t – until “His work was finished.”  He did this all for the remission of our sins.

Prayer: My Lord, Your Son has suffered so much, shed so much blood. I was born with so many faults and my nature is so full of weakness, and yet Your Son Jesus has died on the cross. For me.  I know Your grace has the power to cleanse me of my many sins and to make me more like Your Son. Thank You for Your goodness and love for me. I ask You, Father, to watch over me – always.

Other scriptures for contemplation: Isaiah 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; 31:9-16; Hebrews 10:16-25;4:14-16; 5:7-9; Philippians 2:5-11

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is very special, because it represents the time that Jesus spent in the bowels of the earth – preaching to the Old Testament saints, then releasing them and taking them to His Father in Heaven.  Jesus also faced down Satan, and destroyed the power over sin and death that Adam had given him in the Garden of Eden.  Jesus gave power and authority over the devil to the Church – you and I.  Now we have that authority over all the power of the enemy.  Holy Saturday is observed in many Christian churches with the blessing and lighting of a tall Paschal candle.  Incense is burned, representing the wounds of Jesus and the burial spices with which his body was anointed.  The candle is lit and remains in the church until Ascension Day.

Jesus was rejected, not just by Peter and by the traitor Judas, but by every one of the twelve apostles – men that He had personally selected to carry on His work and that He had lived and ministered with for three years.  And Jesus has also been rejected by each one of us – at many times in our lives.  But the Bible says that He loved us, while we were still sinners – in spite of the fact that we were sinners.  That’s the real miracle of the cross!

It’s not the fact that we rebelled against God in our past – that’s important.  God forgives us for the sins of our past that we repent of.  What’s important most is the relationship we form with Jesus – when we finally realize that we messed up – and that He’s the only way to fix our relationship with His Father – Almighty God.

We can see that in the different reactions of the two most prominent men who rejected Jesus: Peter and Judas Iscariot.

Acts 1:15-20 tells us that Judas’ response was much different than Peter’s.  Judas felt remorse for what had transpired  – but he never repented that we know of.  Instead, he went out and committed suicide.  

 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples(altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.”    (Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out.   And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)   “For it is written in the Book of Psalms:   ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, ad let no one live in it’;and ‘Let another take his office.’

 The Bible says that Peter also rejected Jesus (out of fear for his own life) – but he wept – he repented. 

Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came.   And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.”  But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying.” And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them.”   But he denied it again.  And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!”  A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept.   Mark 14:66-72

Both Peter and Judas rejected Jesus – but Peter repented and became stronger for it.  Even becoming a leader of Christ’s Church in Jerusalem.

 Other scriptures for contemplation: Job 14:1-14; Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24; Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16; 1 Peter 4:1-8

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, the third day since the crucifixion, is where He rose up from His tomb that was guarded by the sentries, and met His disciples to get them prepared to continue His works on earth.   Easter celebrates Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the devil, as well as the promise of our justification and everlasting life.

The miracle of the crucifixion, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus is that each one of us has the same opportunity that Peter had to turn our lives around and begin to serve God – to make Jesus our Lord.  That gives us the victory in Jesus that we sing about so often.