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It’s the Lord, #108

“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” 

“So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” 

John 21:4-7 (context, vv. 3-8)

Perhaps this is the way Jesus comes to us. Every time he comes to the 12, it’s unexpectedly. Three times he visits them, and he never comes with a rebuke, or a harsh word of correction. In my mind at least, I certainly wouldn’t have let them off-the-hook that easy. I would’ve pounced on them.

They’re out fishing, following Peter’s decision. Peter again is blowing it. And Jesus, rather than a word of correction, shouts to them that they need to cast their net to the other side of their boat. He tells them, if they do that, they’ll catch more than they can handle.

This has come before, when they were first called to follow. It’s appropriate that what happened at the beginning, has now occurred at the end. Later, when they counted fish, they had a 153. And the nets, had not been torn.

John is the first to recognize Jesus, but Peter will be the first to the shore.

Peter instantly knows that this man is Jesus. He strips down to his underwear and jumps in. He must be with Jesus, the others are pulling in the net, and the boat is moving too slow. (Maybe Peter thought he would walk on water a second time?)

“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

John 21:9-10

The passage points out that they worked till morning, and they probably were hungry. The Lord is aware, and he’s built a campfire for them. It’ll be fried fish and bread for breakfast.

There’s a sensitivity here, and a proactive kind of love that is really concerned about others. He’s aware of what others might need, and he finds a way to serve them. That’s precisely the way love works. (1 Cor. 13.)

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:3-4

The resurrected Jesus is still the humble servant. The disciples could’ve fallen on their faces, and that would’ve been entirely appropriate. This after all, is the risen Savior of the world. Perhaps Jesus is more approachable than we think? Perhaps?

 “They ate the bread and fish that morning, I doubt not, in silent self- humiliation. Peter looked with tears in his eyes at that fire of coals, remembering how he stood and warmed himself when he denied his Master. Thomas stood there, wondering that he should have dared to ask such proofs of a fact most clear. All of them felt that they could shrink into nothing in his divine presence, since they had behaved so ill.”

C.H. Spurgeon

Oh, how he loves you.

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The Skull, #102

“Two criminals were also led out with him for execution, and when they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified him with the criminals, one on either side of him.

“But Jesus himself was saying, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” Then they shared out his clothes by casting lots.”

Luke 23:32-34, Phillips

This is easily the darkest and evil point in human history. The Son of God, (the second person of the Trinity) allows himself to be crucified. Do we have the slightest idea what that means? Is this really something we can grasp?

The word “Calvary” means “place of the Skull.”

When criminals were put to death that’s where it took place. Since Romans liked to execute people, I imagine it was semi-permanent, with vertical poles set in place. The “skull” was visible to all, situated on a main highway. The men who were lifted up would’ve been able to see Jerusalem’s walls, and perhaps even the Temple.

Jonathan Edwards comments about putting people to death like this:

“Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering.”

“Maximum pain and suffering.” Doesn’t that bring it into perspective?

Jesus spends his last few hours praying for his enemies. While he was suffering and dying, the soldiers were rolling dice for his robe. But as he was hanging, the nails holding him in place–he was praying. The pain must’ve been beyond belief. (It’s worth noting that we get our English word “excruciating” from the Latin word meaning “from the cross.”)

Jesus took my sin–he took yours too. He absorbed every ounce. And yet taking on all that, he was still innocent. He did not sin, but he carried every single drop of it. Why would he do this?

At that precise moment, the Father turned his back on him.

With all of that sin (my sin, and yours) God turned away, (Isaiah 53:10). He was now totally alone, and the wrath of God was poured out on him. Jesus, at that moment, was in our place–he substituted himself for us. He died, so we might go free, (2 Corinthians 8:9).

What more can I say? The darkest moment for him became the brightest one for us. He hung there, completely horrified–he was now all alone. God left him at that moment.

I now must live differently.

Once I really truly understood this, everything changed. God is now my friend, I’m at peace with him. When Jesus died on “the place of the skull” he substituted his life for mine. He died, and now I live. It was the greatest exchange in all of history, (1 John 4:9-10).

I now choose to turn away from those things that Jesus Christ went to the cross for.

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The Passover Code, #95

“And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.””

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

Luke 22:19-29

In 1838, the telegraph was invented by Samuel Morse. For the first time messages could be relayed from one place to another quickly and accurately. You didn’t need carrier pigeons, flags or a fast horse anymore, but electric impulses could be sent by trained operators over wires dedicated for that purpose. In its day, it was revolutionary; state-of-the-art stuff.

Jesus encodes spiritual lessons to his followers, and although the analogy isn’t perfect, he communicates what’s spiritual to the physical. He uses images–bread and wine, to explain salvation in ways that would’ve meant something to those who followed.

The lessons come from the feast of the Passover, Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23. Jesus reinterpreted them in Himself, and the focus was no longer on the suffering of Israel in Egypt, but on the ‘sin-bearing’ suffering of Jesus on their behalf. He was the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29.)

The code is now fulfilled by Jesus.

The elements are tweaked (a great ‘theological” term, btw) and they mesh together quite well between the O.T. and the N.T. This meal was clearly communicated to Jesus’ followers–they knew exactly what he was saying–there would’ve been no ambiguity or confusion.

Jesus shares his imminent crucifixion, in common code–the bread and wine of the supper, to describe what was coming. From that point on, they would never forget that bread was now his “body,” and the wine had now become his “blood,” both broken, and shed respectively.

He explained that he was becoming their sacrifice–what he was going to do in a short span of a few hours was going to open up eternal life. Since then, a lot of theology has been discussed–transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or a memorial. You can toss in the idea of eucharistic prayer too. Books and books of each have been written. My library is loaded with them.

There seem to be merits for each concept, and I know that my own viewpoint won’t satisfy anyone at all. I’m sorry. But the critical issue for me is that the deed has been done. The code has been given, and eternal life has been given to us.

 “What is certain is that Jesus bids us commemorate, not his birth, nor his life, nor his miracles, but his death.”

D.A. Carson

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Love Like a Disciple, #93

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35

The believers in Jesus must carry the credentials of Jesus. To be authentically his demands evidence–proof that you’re really are real. It never comes by one’s own words, personal declarations, or by affiliations or preferences. Jesus is crystal clear on what is true and what is not. To him, it’s black or it’s white.

“Where’s the beef?”

A few years ago that was the ad line of a particular fast food chain. It was catchy, and soon everyone smiled. The company only did it because it worked. Three old ladies looked at a competitor’s hamburger and made the announcement that something was terribly wrong.

Jesus made it clear that there would be evidence that everyone would see. “Love one another” is used three times in two verses–not only that, but in verse 35 we hear him tell us that “all people will know” what disciples would look like. To follow Jesus you must love like Jesus–to be like him, you must love like him.

We dare not minimize this. It’s now the believer’s credentials, the proof that they were real, and not just posers. We’re called to be more than religious exhibitionists, who somehow have an affinity for nice sounding words that only touch the outward. Jesus states that our love is now the true declaration of something super authentic–and very tangible.

So where’s the love?

The word used is ἀγαπάω, agape. It’s the ultimate kind of love–the love that God himself has for lost people: it’s not the love one has another sexually, that word is eros. It’s not the love we have for our brother, that word is philo. But it is agape, a love that has no limits, and the best and clearest definition is found in 1 Corinthians 13.

Maybe a better grasp of the verses in John 13 can be had by reading the Message translation:

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

(vv. 34-35)

“Our love to God is measured by our everyday fellowship with others and the love it displays.”

   Andrew Murray

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Pouring Out Your Oil, #88

“Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.”

John 12:7-8, (context vv. 1-8)

She came and poured perfumed oil on Jesus feet. She massaged it in with her hair. What she did was out of love, and maybe concern? She knew and understood. Many of us deeply understand with what she did–Mary has become a person that we identify and engage. She is doing what we would have done. (At least we hope.)

That perfume was a concentrate–it was the source for smaller vials. The oil Mary used was undiluted and not weakened in any way. It was not diminished or thinned, it was powerful stuff. What she did was an extremely costly act. Notice that it was a whole pound–and the text states that the entire house was filled with the scent.

When Jesus was being scourged and crucified, the odor of that perfume would’ve been present. That smell was still there, and most likely it sustained, and even encouraged him. Perhaps our acts of love–of sacrifice, of deep worship mean far more than we realize?

But there will always the ones who are practical.

All they see is the incredible waste. Judas had a pragmatic, reasonable and more sensible position. The other 11 felt the same. As they analyzed Mary’s actions all they could see was the terrible waste. There came a point when Judas, who controlled the finances, just had to speak:

“Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray him), said, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (vv. 4-5).

“He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it.” (v. 6).

So dear one, who was right? The other Gospel accounts tell us that the disciples also felt this way, (Matthew 26:6-13). The general consensus was that Mary was far too excessive. After all, 300 denarii was a lot of money–a denarii was a day’s wage. It was probably more money they had ever seen!

It’s interesting that Mary unbound her hair. That was anathema in Jewish culture. It was the clear evidence of an immoral woman, a prostitute. But yet she did it. Mary did not stop to calculate public reaction. She knew deep down that it was the only thing she could do for him.

What exactly is worship? What part of it do we not understand yet? Does it matter what is in our heart?

It is interesting that was immediately afterward this that Judas Iscariot left, and set up an agreement to betray Jesus.

“Is anything wasted which is all for Jesus? It might rather seem as if all would be wasted which was not given to him.”

C.H. Spurgeon

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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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Behold, the Hen of God, #78

havenlight.com

“So many times I have longed to gather a wayward people, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings—but you were too stubborn to let me.”

Matthew 23:37, TPT

Scripture tells us that Jesus only wept twice. The first at the tomb of Lazarus, when he cried over the evil and destructive power of death. The second is here–the night before he was crucified, where he stood on the Mount of Olives–and wept over the city of Jerusalem. The disciples saw (and noted) that his tears rolled down his face.

Mother hens do not provide milk for their chicks, they simply aren’t equipped for that. Instead they teach them by example–and occasionally hold food in their beaks until the little ones get the idea that they can scratch on their own. The yolk sack from their eggs they are hatched from will provide food for the first 72 hours–after that, they’re on their own.

Chicks will always return to their mother. She provides them with heat and shelter. You’ll see then snuggling up to mom, especially when the weather gets cold, wet–or for protection. The little chicks instinctively know that she has all that they need. They’ll always stay close to her.

There is no “magic force field” for the believer. We’ll face all the things that the unbeliever does–but he does cover, and lavishly provides the grace and peace that we need. Life can be brutal and nasty, there is no question about that.

“O God, have pity, for I am trusting you! I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until this storm is past.”

Psalm 57:1

The Lord will always protect his people. He’s intensely aware of us–he shields and provides everything we need. He covers us, keeps us and protects us. We truly belong to him.

Do we really understand this? Do we really grasp the profound implications of his promises?

I have many questions (of course.) Why do we do the things our Father hates? Do we bring him tears by the way we behave? Will we come to him at the first sign of “danger?” The city of Jerusalem was stubborn, and unreceptive–can I also resist him?

“But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them shout for joy forever. May You shelter them, and may those who love Your name boast about You.”

Psalm 5:11

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The Father, #76

“If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

John 10:37-38

The Father is in me.” This is one of the clearest passages Jesus uses to explain his ministry. His listeners are doubters. They have decided that he must be executed for blasphemy. In verse 31 we read of their deep, deep anger–“The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.”

It’s crazy how “bad religion” affects people. The Pharisees thought for certain that they were defending God’s honor. They really believed that they were doing exactly what they needed to do. Their religion demanded it.

“I and the Father are one” (v. 30), really disturbed them. Leviticus 24:16 delineated their duty. They must defend God from blasphemers, it was their duty as religious leaders. And Jesus was one of the most egregious offenders that they had ever seen.

This confrontation between them and Jesus was quite intense, and yet Jesus, (instead of backing off) presses the issue. The Father has sent him–Jesus must speak the truth, and there is absolutely no sugarcoating his message. He very clearly states what is real. It has to be believed.

“Believe” is mentioned three times. “Know and understand” are thrown out there for good measure. All explain the necessary components that must be present in a saving faith. And yet, all it did was make them angrier.

I believe that Jesus speaks softly, and with wisdom and compassion–but what is real and true, must be spoken. I really don’t think he “returned” their anger. That would’ve been wrong. And John doesn’t mention it.

“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but one slow to anger calms strife.”

(Prov. 15:8)

“The Father is in me and I am in the Father” explains his ministry, and Jesus can’t, or won’t, compromise his message, or the truth. It is a fact. It’s something you can hang your hat on.

“He is not ‘making himself God’; he is not ‘making himself’ anything, but in word and work he is showing himself to be what he truly is – the Son sent by the Father to bring life and light to mankind.”

Bruce’s Commentary

When they looked at Jesus–they saw the face of God. The Father was living in him–and he resided in the Father. This is the truth, and it blew out their religious circuits. It was something they simply couldn’t accept.

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Jesus Knew Who He Was, #61

“So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, 

“You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”

John 7:28-29 (context, vv. 25-31)

Jesus was sure of himself–he fully understood his identity. There was not an iota of self-doubt or awkwardness. He was sure and steady, not at all like us. He spoke like a man who is totally confident about who he was. He walked out an awareness of who he was, and what he must speak.

Jesus had concrete knowledge of who he was, and now is proclaiming it to the people and priests. No one could stop him, he was like a spiritual locomotive. He spoke with total love, wisdom and authority. He spoke as a man who was not bound by religious definitions or ritual.

The temple was the special place were people met God–and God met people. And it’s in this certain place that Jesus now speaks to the crowds.

The issue here is one of identity, Jesus reveals who he really is, but also declares the awesome gap that exists between God and man. “Him you do not know” is the terrible analysis of our heart condition. We are separated and we’re walking in the dark. Romans 3:10-12 explains it like this,

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11  no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”

“He sent me,” explains the concentrated effort of God to get our attention. It seems that the Father has gone to extraordinary effort to bring us home to him. Jesus is God’s greatest effort. Jesus Christ was sent to find us, and return us to God.

“Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God because He said so.”

C.S. Lewis

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God’s Sign Language, #47

“You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

Matthew 16:3, (context, vv. 1-12)

This disturbing union of Pharisee and Sadducee was telling–they were polar opposites. One group was ultra-conservative, and the other flaming liberal, the yin and the yang. They detested each other. To somehow unite these hated enemies must have taken someone with some flair!

Leadership could no longer discern between what was right and what was wrong. These men had gravitated into high office for selfish reasons. They were hypocrites; they loved the praise of men immensely, and would never dream of giving up the power and prestige.

Hypocrisy becomes my way of ensuring that I can retain all that honor. When our positions of oversight, direction and wisdom are taken over by confused leaders who haven’t the slightest idea of what God is speaking we are in critical danger. We need those who can interpret these things to us without caving into either the fear or praise of men.

The Jews of Jesus’ day had a saying that if all the hypocrites in the world were divided into ten parts, Jerusalem would contain nine of the ten parts. Jesus wasn’t the first one who saw the religious lies of His day. It was more or less understood by everyone.

Jesus the Messiah had truly come. He preached, taught and healed. He revealed Himself over and over to the Jewish people. He explained the Kingdom of God. The Jewish “leaders,” didn’t recognize Him, they refused to see. They were the hypocrites who gravitated to ministry for the prestige that was given; never for the responsibility of the office.

Truth is as critical to a church as love is.

We are to be known by our love, but we’re also to be understood as being people of truth. We must understand the difference between black and white. We need leadership who will look at these sticky issues and explain it to us. We need them to decipher the moment.

I don’t know what the future holds for the Church. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be an adventure. Let’s keep listening to Jesus, reading the Word, and hearing each other. Let’s avoid hypocrisy as if it were the smallpox. Let’s pray for leadership that understands the moment, and that knows the dark evil of the praise of men.

“For not only does sound reason direct us to refuse the guidance of those who do or teach anything wrong, but it is by all means vital for the lover of truth, regardless of the threat of death, to choose to do and say what is right even before saving his own life.”

A.W. Tozer

  

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