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He is Solid, #106

38 “Why are you troubled?” he asked them. “And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” 40 Having said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 But while they still were amazed and in disbelief because of their joy, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”

Luke 24:38-41, CSB, (context vv. 36-43)

He isn’t a ghost, a hallucination or some sort of fabrication of hopeful desires. He’s real! As real as you or I–solid, flesh and blood, and real bones. That may seem like a small thing, but it reveals to the disciples (and us) so much. When his resurrection happened, it didn’t alter him, or change his physical attributes. The disciples were floored when the solid Jesus showed up to be with them.

It was a late Sunday evening.

The doors were shut tight, and the eleven were hiding out there–scared and wallowing in doubt. That’s a lousy mixture. Jesus doesn’t knock on the door, he just pops right in their gathering. That must of been a bit of a shake-up in itself. I know I would of freaked. (And I would’ve taken a serious look at that door.)

At the core, they couldn’t believe that he was real. Maybe a ghost, or his spirit or something else? I’m fairly certain that even if this “man” was really Jesus, it would, maybe be something mystical or ethereal. He wouldn’t be flesh anyway. That was a real stretch for them–and me too.

If it was really true, it meant that physical things are really spiritual.

What I mean by that earth was now combined with heaven. Jesus, the King of the known universe–the One who sits on the throne–is solidly human. Concrete and quite tangible. He’s not a vague kind of spirit, but he’s just like like us. Finally, something physical!

Let’s not get confused about this; I think it’s a critical point. Eternity will not be a vague and misty reality–nebulous and celestial. It’s now quite relatable. When Jesus walks with you on the golden paths of his heaven, you’ll not be walking with a ghost. He’ll be as you and I are right now. He’ll be real. You’ll be real.

You’ll be able to touch him. And if you really want to you can stick your finger into his wounds (verse 40.) I love what this solid Jesus told Thomas in John 20:27:

“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.

This should shatter any misconceptions you might have. Thomas had real doubts, and instead of getting rebuked, Jesus invites Thomas to discover the reality of himself. This is really quite profound when you think of it. I’m so glad that this happened, I needed to hear it for myself.

I maybe a very silly preacher and writer, but that’s the way I see it.

A light shining in this heart of darkness
A new beginning and a miracle
Day by day the integration
Of the concrete and the spiritual

Bob Bennett, “Heart of the Matter

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Go to My Brothers, #105

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus told her, “since I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”

John 20:17-18, (context, vv. 11-18)

Some believe that somehow this ties into the holiness of Jesus and his need to ascend with God. This thought is that somehow Mary would defile him. I don’t believe this for a second. A much better idea is that Mary was so excited to see Jesus alive that she grabbed a hold of him and simply wouldn’t let go.

The risen Jesus was not a ghost, or a spirit.

He was solid, just like you and me. And he wasn’t Mary’s hallucination, delusion or some sort of wish-fulfillment. It was him–it’s Jesus. Yes, he was buried, everyone knew that. But now he was actually standing before her–very much alive.

“Go to my brothers” is quite profound when you think about it. There’s no superiority or condescending attitude to speak of. Rather he’s relating to his cowering and foolish followers who are hiding out as his brothers. They maybe in hiding, but he’s telling them that they needn’t be afraid.

“My Father and your Father, to my God and your God,” is wonderfully aware.

It’s funny, but this is the first time that he refers to them as his brothers, and the resurrection from the dead has changed everything. It’s interesting, but a brother relationship is even closer than a friend relationship. The disciple are now relating to Jesus in a new capacity. They’re now brothers–family.

Mary has been “commissioned” by Jesus.

She is now the first one to carry the Good News that the Lord has risen from the dead. The Jews didn’t recognize the testimony of a woman in their courts, but Jesus chose her. She’s been given the responsibility to carry the news to his followers. This is no small thing.

We see Mary announcing this to the disciples. The word “announcing” means she simply declared to them what she had just experienced. Perhaps that’s the essence of witnessing to others–we simply communicate what Jesus has done for us. Our testimony is a very powerful thing, (Rev. 12:11).

“Christ the Lord is risen today, Sons of men and angels say. Raise your joys and triumphs high; Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply.”

    Charles Wesley

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Jesus is Crushed and Abandoned, #96

The Olive Press in Gethsemane

“Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”

“He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.””

Matthew 26:36-38, NLT

Gethsemane means “olive press.” It’s there, olives from the grove were crushed for their oil. And it’s here the Son of God would be crushed. Jesus’ trip to the garden was intentional. Located just a short distance from the Temple mount, it was secluded, and yet it enabled Jesus and his disciples a chance to rest. It seems that it was a regular spot for them to regroup and pray.

Incidentally, these olive trees are the oldest ones known to man. DNA tests identified them to be over 800 years old, and even if cut down the trees will grow up out of the roots. It very well could be that these were there when Jesus entered the garden to pray.

Judas Iscariot knew the place where he would be.

He was able to lead the mob right where Jesus was praying. It also seems that there were several groves there, and there was at least one ‘press’ that was used to extract the oil from the olives. As these were crushed they released the oil directly into buckets that were placed there.

Quite aptly, Jesus used this process to describe the things he would endure. All four gospels describe him as being in that place. It’s also when Jesus calls on three of the twelve to join him in prayer. These completely failed to intercede and watch with him. Jesus would have to go it alone.

The loneliness that Jesus faced was quite real.

He had no one to turn to in the hour of his need, He was all alone. He had been deserted by everyone.

Why? Why was he abandoned by those he needed the most? He kneels down, with no one to help him. He had brought those who were his closest, the three he knew would help carry him through this critical moment–and guess what? They fell asleep.

When I weave the four accounts together (and I must), I try very hard to understand all of this. I admit I get angry, (especially in my more lucid spiritual moments.) Why did they leave him at the very moment when he needed them the most? Would’ve I done it differently? IDK.

“Being full of pain, Jesus prayed even harder. His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

Luke 22:44

As I try to make sense of this I have no real answers for you. But I somehow realize that the Son of God understands us. He has known loneliness and confusion. He understands what its like to be completely lost, and totally forsaken. I know that he was pressed so hard, that he sweated drops of blood. But he survived God’s oil press.

“It is not darkness you are going to, for God is Light. It is not lonely, for Christ is with you. It is not unknown country, for Christ is there.”

Charles Kingsley

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Disheartened, #83

“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

Mark 10:21-22, ESV

Let’s be clear–Jesus really did love him, and that explains a whole lot. In verse 17, we see this man running to Jesus, and he kneels right in front of him. I suppose that this man desperately wanted the Lord’s full attention. He had to know–he must understand. He was a driven man with some very deep questions.

To be wealthy was the clear evidence that God really did love you. If you were rich, you must have God’s approval, and if you happened to be richer than rich–he must love you even more than that. That big bank account was the proof that you were set apart, and completely accepted by God. (Not a whole lot has changed, has it?)

All of this must be understood before we can go any further.

The rich young ruler was suddenly jolted by Jesus’ words–he simply had to give away all his money–and then, to start to follow him. I don’t think anyone had ever dared to confront him like this. Jesus spoke so clearly–and so concisely. The things that came out of Jesus’ mouth cut him like a knife, and then, smashed him like a hammer–they wallopped him hard, and quite honestly, nothing had ever hurt so much.

But dear one, remember this; Jesus always uses a rubber hammer.

The passage told us earlier that Jesus, “loved him” (10:21). Jesus lists five of the 10 commandments, but interestingly enough, the ones that Jesus spoke were the ones written on the second tablet–the ones that dealt with how we treat each other.

Did this man really keep them? Perhaps he may have–maybe yes, maybe no. But knowing human nature, and looking through the lens of God’s word, it was clearly impossible. He may have been seriously conscientious, and maybe he really tried his best to live righteously, but scripture is clear, “all have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The text tells us that when Jesus spoke to this man, he issued an invitation, but it also doubled as a command, “come, follow me.” I don’t think that following was as simple as it sounds–and it seems it was the one thing that the rich young ruler couldn’t, or wouldn’t do.

He’d certainly made a valiant effort to be holy, no one could dispute that. But he had to know he was really saved, and he was desperately afraid he wasn’t. This man had a questions that weighed him down–but he must know for sure–he was tied by a golden rope to a heavy treasure chest, and that was something he couldn’t leave behind.

“The fellow that has no money is poor. The fellow that has nothing but money is poorer still.”

Billy Sunday

This man seems to have been ruled by fear. And that is something wealth will do to people. The richest people seem to be the most afraid, and although I admit that seems strange, and perhaps even a bit judgmental, scripture tells us that having possessions often leads one into mortal danger–it’s just the cheese in the mousetrap, (Psalm 49:5).

He ended up “disheartened.” A simple definition of that word means “having lost determination or confidence; dispirited and afraid.” That pretty much describes this man’s state of mind. Jesus had issued a command, and the rich young ruler couldn’t, or wouldn’t, ever meet the terms of Christian discipleship.

Money can be a useful servant, but it’s really a terrible master. That false god–Mammon is an idol, and a deadly one. And that evil god intends to destroy you, if you can’t release your wealth to God. and to others.

“He also did not choose to love God more than his wealth, even though Jesus specifically promised him treasure in heaven. The man was more interested in the earthly treasure of men than in God’s heavenly treasures. This man was essentially an idolater. Wealth was his god instead of the true God of the Bible. He put money first.”

David Guzak

“Most people fail to realize that money is both a test and a trust from God.”

Rick Warren

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That Fox, #77

 “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. “

Luke 13:32, (context, vv. 31-35)

Herod’s “accomplishments” were hardly the stuff of a righteous king. He flagrantly committed several very public sins. He wasn’t a good king, as he flouted his authority over the Jewish people. He was regarded as cunning, but weak. Some of his evil things he did is listed below:

  • Signed a decree to murder all the children under two year old and under.
  • Ruled as a “puppet” leader and was given his authority by the emperor Augustus and the Roman government.
  • He permitted Salome to dance before an audience, which was forbidden by the Jewish Law.
  • Ordered the murder of John the Baptist after John confronted him about his evil relationship with Herodias.
  • Turned Jesus over to Pontius Pilate for judgement and execution.

Needless to say King Herod Antipas didn’t have a good track record, he was regarded as a wicked man, and an evil king. He actively opposed any threats to his rule. It’s interesting that he resisted both John, and later Jesus. He was a definite threat to the kingdom of God.

Typically the Pharisees’ and the Herodians’ were on opposite poles, especially when it came to religious and legal matters. It’s quite interesting that they united to oppose Jesus and his ministry. Herod was very superstitious and paranoid–for instance, he believed that Jesus was actually John the Baptist risen from the dead to continue his ministry.

Jesus called him a fox, which certainly wasn’t an endearing description, and described the rule of Antipas as an evil ruler. Usually kings choose a “lion” as their emblem–it represented strength and authority, Jesus refused to recognize Herod in this way. Herod was an evil man, and ruled like a fox.

“To the Jew the fox was a symbol of three things. First it was regarded as the slyest of animals. Second, it was regarded as the most destructive of animals. Third, it was the symbol of a worthless and insignificant man.”

Barclay’s Commentary on the Bible

Jesus is direct and blunt. He knew the character of Herod’s reign, and didn’t mince words when he referred to him. Jesus recognized the evil and “labeled” it. At the same time he seemed to acknowledge the authority of Herod’s reign.

Jesus was well aware of the “timetable” he had. He understood that he had plenty of work to do, and the time that he had to do it. Jesus was definitely aware of Herod’s resistance to his ministry, but wasn’t the least bit intimidated or cowed into silence or fear.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus understood that his death was imminent.

The ministry of Satan often can be seen in the influence of fallen man–it seems the more authority one has over others, the more the enemy can work. Perhaps that’s the awareness that Jesus has. Rather than altering his ministry, Jesus has confidence that he is on God’s timetable. He refuses to be afraid of this wicked king.

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

Proverbs 29:25, ESV

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Looking Squarely at Death, #67

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

John 8:51, (context, vv. 48-51)

R.I.P. “Requiescat in pace”, was discovered etched on the walls of catacombs that dated 150 AD. It was done by  early Christians and indicated that “they died in the peace of the Church, that is, united in Christ.” The abbreviation R.I.P., is now used today–“Rest in Peace.”

Death is inevitable, none of us are going to escape it. Exactly 100% of us will step out into this unknown, and as far as I know no one except Jesus has returned to tell us what to expect. But he completely understands our fear, and he will guide us through this moment. He will not let you face death frightened.

“Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”

Martin Luther

Jesus promises eternal life to all those who keep His word. Our obedience is like a long (sometimes happy, sometimes dreary) hallway that we walk through. At the end of it there is a golden door–for the believer it immediately opens up, but for the non-believer it’s locked tight.

For the unforgiven and the unfaithful, death means doom. For those who want to follow Jesus, death isn’t any different than a graduation, or your wedding day. Rather than listen to the wickedness of the devil, we must grasp truth and not let go. And we really must encourage our frightened brothers. They need to know this.

“How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset.”

George Macdonald

When I was a young boy, I used to lie at night on my bed, crossing my arms, and pretend I was dead. I also went through an awful fear of being buried alive. I read about caskets that had a bell that could ring if I somehow was trapped inside. Somewhere I read they when they had to exhume a body they sometimes found scratch marks on the inside lid. Pretty heady stuff, for a ten year old.

Until I became a believer, I was haunted by this awful fear of death–I now realize that Satan was trying his best to ensnare me. Fear is his awesome tactic, and it destroys the human heart–but I also know that these moments the Holy Spirit always visits me, and along with him he brings his joy, comfort and calming peace.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4

“Death may be the King of terrors… but Jesus is the King of kings!”

D.L. Moody

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The Devil Made Me Do It, #66

 “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

John 8:44 (context, vv. 42-47)

Satan, Lucifer, Adversary, Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, Accuser of the Brethren, slanderer, Antichrist, father of lies, troubling spirit, angel of death, the serpent and the Great Red Dragon in the book of Revelation. He has lots of names and titles, all pretty descriptive of his character; and the extensive empire of evil and hate.

Beelzebub means, “Lord of the Flies,” which is really descriptive when you think about it. All that he does is a big pile of caca.

Jesus starts this particular passage with the stark issue of the Pharisees–Jesus said point-blank that they were in league with Satan, that they are only serving up evil. It seems that there something spiritually dark in everything they touch–often it’s hidden. They are Satan’s emissaries to the lost sheep of Israel.

The second part of this verse deals plainly with the devil and his character, Key ideas express his twisted ministry–murder, falseness and a father of lies–a terrible litany of death. This satanic trickery from the Pharisees was two-fold: The first attack was directed at the divinity of Jesus. The second is a bit unsavory; it points at his illegitimate birth. They’re calling him a bastard.

“The religious leaders brought up the issue of parentage by insulting Jesus in John 8:41. Jesus replied by litany their spiritual parentage – they were the spiritual children of the devil. This was evident in that their desires matched the devil’s desires: the desire to kill and deceive.”

David Guzak, enduringword.com

We have to know these things as his disciples. Whether we like it or not.

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”

C.S. Lewis

 

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The Very First Stone, #63

“He stood up and said to them, 

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

John 8:7 (context vv. 3-10)

The religious police had caught them together, and they held her (just her?) for the express purpose of embarrassing Jesus. Ideally, on the holy grounds of the temple they could challenge him about the Law, and when Jesus tried and failed, they could then humiliate him to the crowds. He would lose a lot in the credibility department (or so they thought.)

“They set a trap for Jesus. If Jesus said, “Let her go,” then He would seem to break the Law of Moses. If He said, “Execute her for the crime of adultery,” then Jesus would seem harsh and perhaps cruel. Also, He would break Roman law, because the Romans had taken the right of official execution for religious offenses away from the Jews.”

-David Guzak

Adultery is expressly prohibited by the seventh of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12) which says simply: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” There is no ambiguity to this. God had made it clear that adultery was wrong, and she was guilty. (The man she was involved with wasn’t charged–which is a bit interesting.)

Jesus, being sinless, was the only one capable of judgement. Having complete authority he had perfect right to carry out God’s verdict. But he didn’t. He wouldn’t. I suppose that’s why this passage is so evocative to many.

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

John 8:11

All of her accusers had quickly left. Jesus simply wrote something in the sand, and whatever it was, it did the trick. There was no other thing that would of caused them to leave so quietly, and abruptly. They suddenly refused to enforce the penalty of the Law, and just skedaddled.

The adultery was still an issue though, it wasn’t overlooked. Jesus spoke directly to her about it, she wasn’t off the hook yet. “From now on sin no more” is after all a command, and that relationship with her lover must be forsaken. Jesus was serious. What she would choose to do from this point on was critical.

Jesus insists that she understand the why behind them departing so quickly. I think it’s important for her quite specifically, she knew that not only was she forgiven, but that now she could live without guilt or condemnation. The condemners were gone. She was free. Absolutely free.

“Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.”

Billy Graham

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The Voice, #51

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 

Matthew 17:5, (context, vv. 1-8)

Sometimes God uses a megaphone. At least whenever I read this account I always have that impression. Perhaps, like these three disciples, we are being led into these situations were the voice of God becomes extremely audible. When we do hear Him it occasionally freaks us out.

The disciples collided with God’s glory and it altered them permanently. Peter recalled these many years later in 2 Peter 1:17-18–

“…when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.”

Peter remembers the voice. At the end of his life that is what amazed him–Peter couldn’t forget, it was something he couldn’t shake. He had seen astonishing things that afternoon, profound things; but at the end he recalls that voice. When we read this, we realize that it wasn’t the visuals so much as it that voice that terrified the three of them.

*****

“Rise, and have no fear.”

Matthew 17:7

Peter is not penalized for his distressing behavior on the mountain. I’ve read this passage over the years, and every time (without fail) I’m totally embarrassed by Peter. He is completely out of mesh here–he acts like clown. He hasn’t a clue.

When the three hear the voice they fold–they are terrified to the point of collapse. The Greek word is “phobos,” the root of our word phobia. This is intense, knee-shaking, face-falling fear. (“Loose bowels” is just slightly more intense.)

Jesus steps right into this situation. He understands completely. He may have even smiled? He reaches to His own and lifts them up. “Don’t be afraid anymore” can be very comforting to hear, especially coming Jesus.

“The Bible is God’s voice, in print.”

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Water, Like Concrete, #43

27 “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 

“Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.”

Matthew 14:27-29, (context, vv. 22-33) 

Jesus is full of surprises! You can never guess the things He will do next. He is Lord after all. To walk on water is totally impossible. But Jesus does it. He walks on it as if it were a concrete sidewalk. He totally scares His disciples sitting in the boat. When they see Him they freak out. They couldn’t believe their eyes.

Jesus wants to reveal to His disciples His true nature. They had just seen Him multiply fish and loaves, He fed five thousand plus just a few hours ago. Wasn’t that a miracle enough? It seems that Jesus doesn’t think so. We now see Him strolling on the water like it was solid ground.

For some inexplicable reason, Peter wants to insert himself into Jesus’ miracle. Oddly, he has decided he’ll join Jesus, and leave behind the security of the boat–for the insecurity of the impossible! He truly believes that Jesus can hold him up somehow. Perhaps this alone is the most amazing part of this passage. Can a man duplicate the walk of Jesus? Can we walk like Him?

Peter really wants to leave the security of the boat, for the insecurity of the impossible.

It seems to me that we’re constantly doing the “Peter thing.” It’s true our walk of faith really is intensely supernatural, and yet we somehow forget this. Face it, we will never generate the “fruits of the Holy Spirit” on our own. Our most sincere effort simply will never turn water into something solid. We will never walk the disciple’s path without a faith in the Master who calls us to come to Him.

I think Jesus wants us to join Him. Our faith in Him is the key. We believe that we can walk with Him, we believe we will see the impossible. Without question it’s Jesus’ power that holds us up. Our faith in Him is the ignition point in all of this. Our mustard seed faith, combined with Jesus’ power. becomes the true walk of the disciple.

We must bravely launch ourselves into the purposes of God. To merely sit in the boat is hardly faith. When Peter steps over the gunwales, he steps into the world of the amazing. The water holds him, and his trust in Jesus solidifies like the water he walks on. He is now doing the impossible. He is now becoming very much like Jesus.

Our walk seems terribly weak at times, we can easily list our sin and weaknesses, our spiritual ugliness. We’re not quite convinced that the blood of Jesus covers all our sin–and we can’t step out of the boat. I think it’s Peter’s faith in Jesus’ power that holds him up. When his faith falters, he does the “rock thing,” There is something about his circumstances–the wind, and the waves that begin to frighten him. (But I must believe Jesus was pleased.)

Just let him sink, and teach the 11 who sit in the boat about the perils of unbelief? Nope.

Fear trumps faith. Adversity always frightens. We sink when our flawed faith can no longer hold us up. The amazing thing though, Jesus doesn’t change His mind or heart, He is still in the business of doing miracles. He calls His disciples to believe in Him–to have faith in His power. To really understand, to step out in faith, and to see miracles happen.

“Christ will always accept the faith the puts its trust in Him.”

-Andrew Murray

   

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