Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Arrest - the Beginning of the End

John 18:1-11 (NIV)
1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.
2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.
3 So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, "Who is it you want?"
5 "Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)
6 When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.
7 Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth."
8 "I told you that I am he," Jesus answered. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go."
9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: "I have not lost one of those you gave me."
10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.)
11 Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"

As Jesus comes to the end of his last evening - which he spent with his innermost circle of now 11 disciples - he ends up in a garden outside of Jerusalem's walls.  There with his disciples, Judas leads a band of Soldiers and Religious officials from the Sadducees and Pharisees to arrest Jesus.

It is the beginning of the end.

Jesus knows it, and to protect the 11 he goes out to make sure they know who he is...because he knows that is what they've come for.  He does not intend on letting something happen to any of the 11, they will be safe.

Peter's actions are pure Peter.  He is trying to stop Jesus from being arrested.  He has never bought into the idea of Jesus being executed, and so his actions are extreme, but ineffective.  Violence has never brought about righteousness...never will.

Jesus' response is clear...Put away your sword...Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" 

This is what is ahead of him for the next 18 or so hours...a bitter cup from the Father.  In it is more violence, the wrath of humanity's sins to be paid for, the blow of the enemy who strikes Jesus' heel, but does not realize his own head will be cut off as sin's stranglehold on humanity is severed by Christ's death. (Genesis 3:15)

The evening is coming to an end, Jesus' last bitter day is just begun, and it is the beginning of the end for the enemy of God.

John 18:12 (NIV)
Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him

We call it Holy Week...and that is what it is.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Jesus' Prayer for Us

At the end of Jesus' conversation with his disciples that evening of his arrest, he prayed.   I love reading this prayer because it is a revelation of what Jesus was thinking that night - knowing he was going to be arrested, and eventually die, that very next day.

John 17:1-26 (NIV)
1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.
2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
6 "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.
7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.
8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.
9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.
10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name--the name you gave me--so that they may be one as we are one.
12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
13 "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.
14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.
15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:
23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.
26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

The time has come...what he sees is not an impending death, but his return to "glory"...the Father's presence that he left in coming to the earth.  When John writes the book of Revelation a number of years later he sees Jesus in an entirely different way.  He is no longer the human embodied Jesus he walked the earth with.  Now he is the glorified Son of God in heaven.

Revelation 1:9-18 (NIV)
9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
10 On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,
11 which said: "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea."
12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
13 and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.
14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.
15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.
16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.
18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

NOW, he also prays for us.
He prayed for our Joy...He prayed for our sanctification - to learn how to walk in his truth... and he prays for our Unity.
If you wonder what Jesus is concerned about for us...this is a good place to re-read.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Listening to the Spirit

As Jesus continued to speak to his disciples that night of his arrest, he told them to expect the work of the Holy Spirit in order for them to do what they were called to do.

John 16:1-15 (NIV)
1 "All this I have told you so that you will not go astray.
2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.
3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.
4 I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.
5 "Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?'
6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief.
7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:
9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me;
10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;
11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.
13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.
15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

Most Christians are well aware of the person of the Holy Spirit.  HE is not an IT.  The Spirit of God is the third member of the Trinity of persons that make up the Godhead.  His role according to Jesus is to come to us.  He convicts of guilt, sin, the need for righteousness, and even the place of judgment...all which don't sit well in our modern world.

People don't want to be judged.
They don't want guilt.
They don't want to deal with sin, and the need for righteousness.

Which is why we need the Holy Spirit!

But what intrigues me the most is Jesus' words that "when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come".  
In a very clear way Jesus says "he will speak to you".

SO, how's the listening going?  The quiet voice of the Spirit is what we need in life, wouldn't you agree?
Let's learn to take up God's word, lay our hearts open to God, and ask for the Spirit to speak, teaching us truth and preparing us for our life to live...he will if we ask.

Luke 11:11-13 (NIV)
11 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?
12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?
13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Learning to be a friend

John 15:9-17 (NIV)
9 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.
11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command.
15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
17 This is my command: Love each other.

Most of have aquaintances but few friends...pity the person who has no friends.  Friendships can be fickle at times.
The idea of being God's friend might seem a bit "out of our league".
It's like saying I'm Aaron Rodger's friend, or President Obama's friend (OK, relax all that don't like  the President as a President).  It would seem preposterous for anyone to tell us they were friends of these kind of people.  We think of friends as "best", or "close", when we want to make a point of what they mean to us.

SO, God's friend?

James 2:23 (NIV)
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend.

Jesus says, "I want you to love one another, and lay down your lives for each other and in the process of all of that you'll discover that you are my friends."
Jesus' relationship with his disciples seems to take a turn.  He is no longer calling himself the "Master", "Rabbi", but rather Friend.  It was an important distinction, because it leveled any sense of hierarchy and brought the relationship to a peer level.
I don't think the disciples thought for a second that they were Jesus' peers - but the fact that he would put their relationship on that level changed everything.

Yet, how is it possible to have that kind of friendship with God, and with others?

Jesus says:
"I have loved...remain in my love."
"Obey my commands, remain in my love."
"My joy is meant to be within you..."
"Love one another as I have shown you love."

All of these are crucial aspects of that kind of real love that leads to friendships.  Friendships love, look out for, challenge, don't let things go, "knows what's going on" behind the scenes.  For most people that seems more than they can allow in their lives, so people stay only as acquaintances, and not friends.
People remain acquaintances because we never move beyond the surface life.  We keep others at bay closing them off from the more difficult parts of who we are.  We put on a face and protect the interior of our soul from being revealed.
No wonder we have a difficult time believing God wants to be our friend.
Dr. J Oswald Sanders said it this way:  "We are as close to God as each of us chooses to be."

Can we believe that God wants us to choose friendship with him?  That he welcomes our desire to grow, to learn about being his friend?  That he does not sit in judgment but rather seeks to share life in love with us?
Learning to be God's friend might seem impossible, but the reality is, that's what he delights in our lives to be - learning to be his friend.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Trellis Growth

As Jesus continued his discourse with the disciples on that evening of his arrest, he makes it clear that he does not expect their growth and development to stop - but rather, just the opposite - that they will grow in their faith and in their work through the power of the Holy Spirit working through them.
He said,
John 14:12 (NIV)
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
It's hard for us to imagine doing "greater things" than what Jesus did.  Yet that is what he said.

It is clear that two things work in tandem to make this happen. On the one hand, it is the Spirit of God that makes it possible.  John 14:16 (NIV) 
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--
It is the Spirit of God that comes to us and makes us possible to do the works of God.  In the Greek that this was written in, the word for the Spirit as comforter is "paraclete" - which is "to be called alongside of".  The Spirit of God is called alongside of us as believers so that we might have the ability to do the works of God.  That is clearly the first thing.

The second thing is right after the chapter division (remember, those chapter divisions weren't part of the original writings).  
As Jesus comes to the end of chapter 14, he says to his disciples, "Come now, let us leave" .

The Upper room they were in was part of the residential section of Old Jerusalem.  In a couple of chapters Jesus will be East, outside the main part of the city in the Garden of Gethsemane.  So, where did he go?
He walked with his disciples through the city as they walked towards the garden.  He passed by the temple, it was late at night, and the fire torches were the only thing lighting up the Temple grounds.  Before the temple building itself stood two massive pillars.  
These two pillars had names, but what was important for us now was that hung from these pillars were vines...the grapes signified the life-giving nature of God...the vines that held them the source of that life.

Here, Jesus stops and speaks to his disciples again, and makes it clear, that while the Spirit of God is the source of our power; there is something we must do.  He says it like this. 
John 15:1-8 (NIV)
1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
I called this post, "Trellis Growth".   We will not grow because of repeated church attendance, or even picking up our bibles once in a while, attending a group every so often, praying at times, or many other spiritual activities.
Our growth in Christ is dependent upon a purposeful, intentional effort to seek, and stay close to Christ.
As Jesus looked up at the pillars and the vines that cascaded from them, he reminded his disciples that their, and therefore OUR, continued growth and development would not happen apart from this intentional and purposeful action of "remaining".

How do we do that?  The trellis is a structure that is built to sustain the growth of the vine.  Without the trellis the vine just scatters randomly across the ground, and it does not truly develop as it could.  With the trellis there is a possibility of continued growth.

Over the centuries great men and women of God have thought long and hard about what sustains growth.  They have seen that Spiritual Disciplines work in giving structure to spiritual activity.
Silence before God
All of these offer something that stretches us to leave our selfishness and look towards Christ's life as the goal of life.  

It is important to build the trellis if we hope to see the Spirit of God at work in our lives.


Friday, March 23, 2012

The Spirit and the Son

While it was clear from Jesus' conversation with his disciples that he was going to be leaving, it was also very clear that he didn't want them to think they were on their own.
And neither should we.
We have this life in Christ, and we are doing this ministry of Church for the sake of God's Kingdom...but, we are not doing it alone.  In fact, when we attempt to do anything for God in the energy of our own flesh, we're bound to fail.  That's why the words that Jesus said to his disciples that last night are so crucial for us to hear again.
John 14:16-29 (NASB)
16 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;
17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
18 "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
19 "After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.
20 "In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."
22 Judas (not Iscariot) *said to Him, "Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?"
23 Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
24 "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me.
25 "These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you.
26 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
27 "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.
28 "You heard that I said to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
29 "Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. 

This is the source of success in our Christ-lives - the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, the Son and the Holy Spirit...not two Gods, but part of the God-head of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The mystery is that they are inseparable , but different.  They exist as one, yet are each true in their own being.
The Spirit of Truth...The Helper...He abides in you and will be with you...
"I will not leave you...I will come to you."
"The Helper, the Holy Spirit, the Father will send from me...will teach you..."
"My peace I give..rejoice because I go to the Father..."

These are all words of divine wisdom.  God has given to us everything we need to do what we will do for the sake of his Kingdom, and we won't be alone in doing it.
Just think:  The Father has given to each of us the greatness of His own being, his Holy Spirit to direct us and teach us how to live.
"Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. 

I always end these blogs with the word "Peace".  Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. 
These word are crucial for us to hear.  Jesus is preparing a place for us...He gives us His Spirit, and he promises to be with us...we will be with him.  It is the tension of NOW and THEN.
NOW, we are at work in the world for the sake of his Kingdom.  We have power from God to draw from, we are not alone.
THEN, we will be with him.
What more can God do to give us this sense of hope, of security for what we are called to do?
What is the helper, the Spirit like?  He is like Jesus.  It makes perfect sense for Jesus to say it to us:


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Seeing The Father

John 14:4-15 (NASB)
4 "And you know the way where I am going."
5 Thomas *said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?"
6 Jesus *said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
7 "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him."
8 Philip *said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us."
9 Jesus *said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
10 "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.
11 "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.
12 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.
13 "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
15 "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 

As Jesus continues to talk to them he makes two really BIG statements...that are not only relevant to the disciples, but are still relevant today.
One, has to do with Thomas' question:  "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" 
Thomas is looking for geographical information.  "Whereare you going Jesus?"  "We will follow you wherever you go" is what he is saying.
Jesus' reply is "I am the way"... It is a startling, but crucial point.  It's not geography we if to say, "where is Jesus?"  This has to do with Jesus as THE WAY... He defines truth and life, and He shows us HOW to live.  He is the Way of life, the way of truth, the way we learn about The Father...which leads to the second major thing he said.

Two, Philip interjects, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." 
Jesus' answer isn't very long, but it's clear:

Jesus *said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
10 "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.
11 "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. 

Seeing the Father is possible because of Jesus.
There has always been a longing inside of believers to understand God the Father.
How can we "know" the Father.
To know anything really well requires time, developing a relationship, wanting to understand and share life with them.
Can we know the Father?
Jesus reminds us that when we seek a deeper relationship with Jesus' "way"...when we seek Jesus we discover the Father also.

All of us who pursue our faith as something more than duty, or ritual, or membership, or rules... anything that avoids institutional and seeks to make it personal, will find ourselves at times wondering what God is like?
The answer can only be found in knowing Jesus.  HE is how we see the Father.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Mansion Beyond?

As Jesus talked with his disciples that evening before his arrest and crucifixion, he wanted them to gain understanding of why this was all happening, AND, where it was all going.
It is the BIG picture that we often hear about.  A need exists at times for us to step back and gain a bigger perspective on what is going on around us.
Lost in the hectic-ness of life with all of it's running around, dealing with difficult, as well as normal everyday stuff...we lose sight of where it is all going.

Why are We Here?
Where is this all going?
God, what are you doing?
What do you want me to do? Be?

We don't stop long enough to ask the real questions.  Instead we stay occupied with the "little" things...the tyranny of the urgent some have called it.  It is those things that keep us occupied, while causing us to avoid "what's it all for, anyway?"

Here comes Jesus into this last evening:
Gathered for Passover as a community
He gives them an example of serving in washing their feet.
He tells them that he knows that one among them is going to betray him, and Judas leaves.
He speaks to them of the great commandment, and personalizes it to them, and therefore to us... the greatest thing we can do to/for one another is to love.

NOW...there's a chapter division in our Bibles, but there is no chapter division in Jesus' conversation with them.  Immediately upon telling them that they should love, he also tells them that he is soon going away, and they will not be able to go with him.
Peter protests..."No, I will not leave you..."
Jesus prophesies Peter's soon to come denial.
Then he tells them all, that they should not be dismayed by all of these events...they fit perfectly into the Father's plans, and when he leaves, he will go to prepare a room for their own coming.

Here's how the scripture said it:
John 13:36-38 and 14:1-4 (NIV)
36 Simon Peter asked him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later."
37 Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you."
38 Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
4 You know the way to the place where I am going."

We all know, Jesus is not walking among us in body today.  He is with us in His Spirit, but we cannot see him (except through the acts of love he spoke of in each of us).

SO, What is Jesus doing?
Some would say, "He's sitting upon his throne, ruling, extending His Kingdom"... Good enough.
Others, "He's continuing to do works through the church of His people..."  True.

One thing he said was:  "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you".

As a young believer I was enamored by the idea of a MANSION being built for me in heaven.  It sounds so appealing, and that is the way the King James had translated "rooms".
The Greek word is mone...a dwelling place, a room.

In Jewish culture a man would be pledged to a woman, and vice-versa, in marriage.  The wedding would occur after the man had gone back to his family and built an addition, a room, another home, on the family property.  Then when the room, addition, was completed, he could come back for his bride, and they would be married.

Jesus is building the rooms for his church...the wedding is still to come, and event though we live in the disarray of the fallen creation around us, we still hear those words:
 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Real Mark of Jesus in Us

It's the Thursday evening before Good Friday.  As the Upper Room dinner began to end, Jesus got up and washed his disciples feet, and then as we saw yesterday, he told them all, including Judas, that he knew he was to be betrayed.  Judas left the meal - the disciples unsure of why he was leaving - assuming that he was going out to buy something.

With Judas gone, Jesus turns his attention back to the disciples.  He has some more to say and he begins this rather lengthy conversation (it's going to go on for two more of John's chapters) with an admonition on what is the real mark of his disciples - love.

John 13:33-38 (MSG)
33 "Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I'm telling you: 'Where I go, you are not able to come.'
34 "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another.
35 This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other."
36 Simon Peter asked, "Master, just where are you going?" Jesus answered, "You can't now follow me where I'm going. You will follow later."
37 "Master," said Peter, "why can't I follow now? I'll lay down my life for you!"
38 "Really? You'll lay down your life for me? The truth is that before the rooster crows, you'll deny me three times." 

He demonstrated his love in the act of washing feet.  He showed them that in humble service of one another the action is one of love.  When he says one is going to betray him, that is the opposite action of selfish sin.  Then after Judas leaves he tells them - briefly - that they are not going to have him very long anymore...and that where he is going they are not able to come.  That's because he knows the day ahead - less than 24 hours from this time - he will be dead.  He is having a Passover meal with them, but this is the "Last Supper" with them.  Now, he is preparing them for the eventual outcome.

It's not often that a person has the opportunity to have a coherent conversation at the very end of their life.  Most who are in this place don't have the ability to share what is important...what they hope the legacy of their loved ones will be.

Jesus does.  He knows that his life on earth is nearly over, and that he is about to leave to go back to the Father.  As he does, he begins to share the important things he wants them to have, and to hold on to.

He starts with what the real mark of a follower of Jesus should be - love.
34 "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another.
35 This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other." 

It's interesting that Jesus calls it a "new commandment".  It was part of the law:  "To love the Lord your God with all of your heart...and to love your neighbor as yourself...."  Jesus himself had told the man who inquired of what the greatest commandment was that this was so.  So, why is it "new"?
Jesus told them to love "one another"...not just a general love, but a specific object of love.  It was a new command because it was one of radical reorganization of how we love.  Not just once in a while when you can, but always to each other in Christ.
In the centuries to come it was this commitment to love one another that survived the collapse of the Roman Empire, and lived purposefully in the Middle Ages, and saw reformation during in the institutional apostasy of the was love.
And this love as it's role model:  "As I have loved you..."
Jesus says it, the real mark of our showing that we are his followers is that we have this love of one another.
It is the greatest gift we can give the world - love one another.
The real mark of Jesus is that in his followers, his disciples, those who trust in him as Savior and Lord and seek to live in his Kingdom, there is this radical nature of love.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Betrayed by Failed Expectations

No one names their children Judas.  No other name is more recognized as anathema than his name.    It's hard to sort out what to do with Judas.  He walked with Jesus, learned from him, saw the miracles, knew what Jesus was up to early on.  Yet when it came down to it he betrayed Jesus.
What's perhaps more amazing is that it doesn't surprise Jesus at all.

John 13:18-32 (NIV)
18 "I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'
19 "I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.
20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me."
21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."
22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.
23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.
24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means."
25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?"
26 Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.
27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. "What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him,
28 but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.
29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor.
30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.
32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 

Jesus borrows the language of David's Psalm written when David's closest advisor - Ahithophel - betrayed David as King...and when his betrayal was overturned Ahithophel also hung himself.  David wrote:
Psalm 41:9 (NIV)
Even my close friend, whom I trusted, 
he who shared my bread, 
has lifted up his heel against me. 

Jesus is "troubled"...not because of the betrayal, but because of Judas.  Why Judas?  What will become of you?
The disciples are "troubled"...they stared at each other...Who?  Why?  No?  Not Me!!!
Judas was unlikely.  He was from Kerioth, not Galilee.  His stature was one of a person of influence, maybe even wealth.  He kept the common purse that held the money they used in their travels.  He was entrusted with much, probably because he has experience in handling money.  Dr. Harry Ironside said of him:  "Judas was the real gentleman of all the teachers."
He was saavy...well mannered, the one that dressed nice, looked nice, knew when to speak and when not other words, the one that most probably never suspected.

So, why?  Why did he do it?
It seems that Judas had come alongside of Jesus as a disciple as much for his own purposes as for Jesus'.  He was a nationalist, one who had political ties and political purposes in mind for Jesus.  There's a sense that he was excited about Jesus at first because as Messiah, Jesus would finally lead the nation in it's restoration, and the Romans would be overthrown! didn't happen.
Jesus started talking about going to Jerusalem...being arrested...dying...None of these fit into Judas' plans.  Judas didn't want a Messiah who would die for the sins of the world; he wanted a Messiah who would destroy the enemies, and therefore Jesus gradually lost Judas' favor.

EXPECTATIONS...we all have them.
We have expectations of our politicians, our teachers, our doctors and even grocery stores.
We have expectations of our spouses, our children, our parents.
We have expectations of our pastor, our elders, our church.
And when those expectations are not met we either have readjust them to fit reality; or, as I've seen way too many times, we become bitter, angry, withdraw, or lash out, leave, try to remove, and on an on we go.

Judas' expectations led him to betray...and for that Jesus was troubled.  "Judas, oh Judas, what could have been."  No one names their children after him.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Loving Well

As Jesus came to  his last hours on the earth, he spent them with his disciples - a show of his dedication to their special relationship with him.  If it were me and I knew this was my last night, I might want to take time to talk about what's important, and what they must remember....and perhaps it would be about doctrine, or beliefs, faith, etc.  Jesus goes a different direction:

John 13:1-17 (NIV)
1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.
3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.
5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
7 Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
8 "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
9 "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"
10 Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you."
11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them.
13 "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am.
14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.
15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

"YOU/I will be blessed if you do them..."  Wash feet...Serve...Love well.
The sequence above is crucial:  humble service, holy relationships, Happiness and Joy.  Let's redefine happiness as "loving well".  The blessed state Jesus talks of is one of contentment, satisfaction, the laid back sense of "this was good" a well done dinner, or a fun day away as family, or with friends.
Loving well is as much a "if you do this" thing as anything.

Loving well includes humility, but that is not it's end...that is only the means to the end.  Washing feet is cleansing another, and that is what Jesus did to and for us!


Friday, March 16, 2012

A Psalm of Jesus?

As Jesus journey through his life, he certainly was aware of the earthly outcome.  He made it clear to his disciples that the outcome was to go to Jerusalem where he was to be arrested by the authorities and would be crucified.
It's a strange thing to think about all of that and realize that in months to come this is where life is going to go.  Jesus knew his role was to be the Passover sacrifice.
John 12:27-28 (NIV)
27 "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.
28 Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."

Jesus knew the Father's will.  He knew that the sins of the world needed a solution that went far beyond yearly sacrifices.  Those, as important as they were, could not atone for the sins of the world.  So, his was to be that "Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world".

“O all ye who pass by, behold and see!”
 Man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree;
The tree of life to all, but only me:
Was ever grief like mine? —George Herbert (England/1593–1633) does one maintain a focus so clearly directed to do God's will?  Perhaps we should borrow insight from the Hebrew Bible that Jesus grew up with.  In it Jesus found the wisdom, the prayers, the focus that he could go back to over and over again...and if it was the source of hope for Jesus, it is just as important that we embrace it also.

 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 
But as for me, it is good to be near God. 
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; 
I will tell of all your deeds. (TNIV)


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Died for Our Sins

This period of time leading up to Easter should lead us to think more deeply about Jesus' death on the cross...and not just the fact of it, but the why of it?  The short answer of course is that Jesus died for the sins of the world...but more specifically, for our sins, my sins.

An interesting part of the Gospels is when Jesus speaks to this:
John 3:12-15 (NIV)
12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man.
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

The reference Jesus is making is from the Old Testament.  Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV) 
4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way;
5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!"
6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.
7 The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people.
8 The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live."
9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

It seems odd at first that Jesus would make reference to a story that seems odd in itself.  Yet, the point of the story is not the snakes, but the confession - "we have sinned...".  
"The Son of Man must be lifted up..." Jesus said.  Why?  Again, because of sin.

Are we so use to the idea that Jesus died for our sins that we become dull, hard-hearted, about our own sin?  Is it possible that as Jesus' followers that we are so use to hearing that he died for our sins, that we become numb to the sting of sin?  When the Israelites came into the wilderness they grew impatient, grumbling, complaining , even blaming God for their lot...but what they weren't aware of and weren't willing to deal with was their own selfishness in the face of God's grace-filled provisions.  

David said it this way in the Psalms...Psalm 32:1-11 (NIV) 
1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"-- and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.
7 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.
11 Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! 


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

From Death to Life

After Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem the excitement was followed by surprise.  The Jewish throngs crowding into the city for Passover were expecting a national Messiah as their hero...come banish the Romans and get rid of all the pagan people from their lands.
Sound familiar?
Sounds a bit like the posture of militant Jihadists from the Middle East today.  The strong ethnic nationalism is based on the fear of losing identity.  Get rid of the foreign nationalists who bring in their culture, their values, their ways of doing things...return back to the fundamentals of our own culture...Fundamentalism is the same in all areas.

Jesus surprised everyone...
John 12:20-28 (NIV)
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast.
21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus."
22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
27 "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.
28 Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."

While the Jewish nation looked for Jesus to come in and become the Messianic King...instead he makes it clear - He is the Savior of the World, not just the redeemer of the Jewish nation.  These Greeks, Gentiles, came to worship, but they were not national Jews, so always "less than".  These Gentiles were seeking Jesus...a sign of that which was to come.  Jesus had said it previously:
John 10:16 (NIV)
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

Here we have God's great purpose being declared.  The kernel of wheat falls into the ground, is buried, seemingly that's the end, it's dead; but we know it's not death, it's the beginning of life.  From the seed, roots go down, the stem begins to grow breaking through the earth and the plant grows producing much, much more fruit.

As a young Christian some 40 years ago I read this passage and it changed my life.  I wrote on 3X5 cards the simple words:  "IF IT DIE", and plastered them all over the place.  It was on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, over the sink, by the TV, hanging from the Car's mirror, on my books, in the office...literally everywhere.
There can be no life from Jesus without the death of self.
"The man (person) who loves his life will lose it, while the person who hates (gives up their rights to control) their life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

We must be as Jesus, willing to give up our own rights and cast ourselves headlong into the life of Jesus - that LIFE that came into being because he gave up his own life...unwilling to be the National Hero of Israel, so that he could take on the Glory of God's will for the sake of the whole world.
"Whoever serves me must follow me...My Father will honor the one that serves me."

Is it worth it?  Yes.


Monday, March 12, 2012

They Call It Triumphal

John 12:12-19 (NLT)
12 The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors
13 took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! Hail to the King of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:
15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming, riding on a donkey’s colt.”
16 His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.
17 Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it.
18 That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign.
19 Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”

This event marks the beginning of the end...Triumphal?  It hardly seems so when you consider that it was Jesus returning to Jerusalem and there he would remain until he was crucified on the cross.

The "triumph" of this event lies in the symbol of what was done.  Jerusalem was the capital of the nation.  He had come here a couple of other times, at least, and each time there had been a confrontation in the Temple.  He came as a worshiper and a prophet each time.
It was Passover and the city swelled with pilgrims coming to the Temple worship.  This is the highest, most important event in Israel's spiritual year.  The city is filled with an atmosphere of intensity as they anticipate this high and holy day....and then the word begins to filter through the crowds.  Jesus is also coming to the Passover celebration.  Perhaps it is time and he will take his role as Messiah, and lead the Jewish nation in overthrowing the Romans.   They hear he is coming and they go out with Palm branches awaiting his arrival.

Soon the disciples begin to appear, with smiles on their faces they lead the donkey down the hillside road towards Jerusalem, and the people begin to shout their approval.  The Palm branches are laid in the road...he comes as a King would come to enter a city.
..."Look your King is coming"..."Hosanna, Hosanna" is shouted.  It means "save, save us".

The disciples don't understand because by now they know that Jesus has said so many times that he's to be arrested and killed by the authorities.  They don't understand the fulfillment of prophecy.  Caught up in the wonder of it all, they are both delighted and sobered...where is this all going?
The crowd that shouts their praise and prayers would soon turn on Jesus and cry out for him to be crucified.  They wanted a Messiah to deliver their needs...not die for the sins of the whole world.
The Pharisees see a threat to their power and rule.  They plot to make Jesus the scapegoat... which leads us back to the event...Passover.  Two lambs, one is a sacrifice, one is a scapegoat...both symbolize the atonement, the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins.

NOW an event happens that changes everything...we'll look at it tomorrow.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Anointed with Love

Mary, Martha, Lazarus were three of Jesus' closest friends - disciples yes, but not one of the 12 that accompanied Jesus day in and day out.  These three were the kind of friends that you just "hang out with"...the kind of friends that don't mind you dropping by and sharing a cup of coffee, or a story, some laughs.   They each were unique, and even though we know the Lazarus story fairly well, it's the sisters who are most prominent.
Yesterday I shared about Martha, but today belongs to Mary.  Here's the passage again:
John 12:1-11 (NLT)
1 Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead.
2 A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him.
3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.
4 But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said,
5 “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.”
6 Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.
7 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial.
8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
9 When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead.
10 Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too,
11 for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.

Mary had long ago cast her lot towards Jesus.  She sat at his feet to learn from him and Jesus said of it,  "Mary has chosen the better" when Martha complained.  Martha's service was an act of worship, but Mary's act of worship must have caught everyone by surprise.
The dinner was a success...all were eating, talking, sharing stories...perhaps listening to Lazarus as he explained what he felt like as he awoke from his death sleep.
Suddenly Mary comes in the room with this jar of perfume.  As she pours it on Jesus' feet, she kneels before him, her hair serving as the brush that spreads it all over...and fills the house with an aroma.
Honored guests had their feet washed...but with just ordinary water.  Probably many were taken seemed so forward, out of the blue, so "what is she doing?"...but not to Jesus.
"She is doing this in preparation for my burial."
It is a prophetic act...
It is an act of worship...
It is an anointing of love...


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Anointed to Serve

John 12:1-11 (NIV)
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.
3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected,
5 "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages."
6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
7 "Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "[It was intended] that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.
8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."
9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.
10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well,
11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. 

Jesus goes back to his friends home for a dinner to honor him.  Lazarus' resurrection wasn't what created the friendship, that was there before Lazarus died and Jesus came back to bring him back to life.  Mary and Martha, along with Lazarus, form the nucleus of what seems to be his closest friends while not being his direct disciples.
When Jesus shows up for the dinner in his honor, so do his disciples.
So there are at least 17 people there, probably more.

"Martha Served"...

Martha was taken back once before when Jesus told her to relax about Mary's desire to sit at his feet while she did the work.  It was a mild rebuke but this time around there is none of that.

Martha served...not with a "why-do-I-have-to-do-everything" attitude; but because she was filled with joy and wanted to do what she did for Jesus.

We sometimes get the wrong idea about "Martha's".  We're told in scripture that when we do what we do "as unto the Lord", we are worshiping.  There's no song being sung, no hands being raised, no eyes closed, or maybe even prayers being said.  Cooking a meal, doing laundry, changing oil, cleaning, etc...all are worthy acts of worship when done "as unto the Lord".

I love the plaque over the kitchen I once read:  "Divine Service held here three times daily".

There was an anointing with oil by her sister that we'll deal with tomorrow, but today, let's honor the Martha's whose anointing it is to serve.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Bonhoeffer Prayer

John 11:45-53 (NIV)
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.
46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. "What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs.
48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."
49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all!
50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish."
51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation,
52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.
53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

Among the heroes of our faith is Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  A German pastor, theologian, brilliant and passionate, a man who vehemently opposed Hitler's attempt to control the church and make Nazi ideology a part of the church's values, a man who sought to get Jewish people out of Germany when it became obvious what the Nazi's what the attempting to do in exterminating the Jewish people...and on and on I could go.

Bonhoeffer was arrested by the Nazi Gestapo after his name was linked to people involved in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler.  He spent several years in prison camps until one week before the end of the Allied liberation when he was executed as an enemy of the state.

The second century theologian Tertullian said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church".
The Church has always survived the Satanic driven attempts to destroy it.  It started back in Jesus' earthly ministry.  The Pharisees were driven by their own selfish desire to retain control, to rule in power over people - even when it involved faith.
The nature of earthly power is that, unredeemed, it is always most interested in control "over", not serving under...not love...not caring.  This is the nature of a world under the control of the enemy.  It was manifested in Caiaphas, a high Priest; and down through the centuries by rulers such as Adolph Hitler.

We are called to stand true to faith.  We do not need power from an earthly source to do that.   We need the redemptive power of Christ's love, and that same love as a driving force in our own souls.
But, we cannot do that alone.  Listen to the words of Bonhoeffer he penned while in Prison.

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you;
I cannot do this alone.

In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely,
but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart,
but with you there is help;
I am restless,
but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness,
but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me. . . .

Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before men.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Inevitable Choices

Psalm 121:1-2 (NLT) 
I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! 

The days leading to Easter are filled with challenges.  We don't live in a world of ease, but one filled with challenges to faithfulness, integrity, character, courage and strength.  It's easy to get lost in the bad news and the sense of despair that surrounds that news.  People do awful others and to themselves.
Wouldn't it be nice to just get rid of the evil and live in a world without that pain?
The problem is, we don't...and we won't - at least not until Jesus returns and his Kingdom is set upon the earth.
The Cross represents God's solution.   Sin is a World-wide infection.  It is an epidemic that cannot be cured by our best strategies, or our best efforts.  There is no political solution.  No country can police away the evil.  There is no pastor, no teacher, no counselor, no friend, or parent/spouse that can do what needs to be done.

Mark 8:31-38 (NLT)
31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead.
32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.
35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.
36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?
37 Is anything worth more than your soul?
38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

We cannot fall into the Peter trap...seeing things merely from a human point of view.
Instead we must hear the words of Jesus - "calling us like his disciples to turn from selfish ways, take up the cross, and follow him."  It is in embracing redemption that evil is overcome.  It is in embracing Jesus that our hope lies.
The cross is inevitable...but the choice is ours.


Friday, March 2, 2012

The God Who Became King

Most of the parables Jesus told had to do with either the Kingdom of Heaven, or His position as the King of that Kingdom.  For example:

Luke 19:11-27 (NIV)
11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.
12 He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.
13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'
14 "But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.'
15 "He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
16 "The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.'
17 "'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.'
18 "The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.'
19 "His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.'
20 "Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth.
21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.'
22 "His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?
23 Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?'
24 "Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.'
25 "'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!'
26 "He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.
27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them--bring them here and kill them in front of me.'"

Much of what we declare to people today about "the Gospel" is that it is a personal transaction between the individual and God whereby God has sent his Son to die on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could have eternal life.  That was what I was taught as a young believer, and that is what I taught for years.
What is missing from that equation is the sense of Christ Jesus as King over His Father's Kingdom.
Where in the Gospel message do we proclaim that sense of Christ as King?

N. T. Wright spoke at Calvin College in late January this year, and he said the following:

"There is just now a fashion for upholding something called "Nicene" Christianity.  But the great creeds of the fourth and fifth centuries were never intended as a complete teaching syllabus, and when used that way they screen out the central theme of the four Gospels:  How God Became King (aka, The Kingdom of God).  Western Christianity has thus lurched between a faith based on incarnation and cross (but without 'kingdom') and a social-gospel 'kingdom'-movement (but without incarnation and cross).  How can we put back together what the Gospels were trying to tell us all along?"

It is not always easy to navigate between the general and the specific when it comes to biblical theology. In general, Christ Jesus DID come to redeem mankind.  "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever would believe in Him would have everlasting life."  That is a general theological truth that will serve as an anchor for each of us to individually put our faith and trust in Christ Jesus as our Savior.
That does not replace the specific ministry of Jesus as King.  He came to this world announcing, "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" - i.e., "it is Now!"  Jesus said in the parable, "he was made King and returned home"....and later, "those enemies...who did not want me to be King over them..."
I see in his message the need to not only trust in him as my Savior, but to enter into citizenship in his domain, his rule, his Kingdom.
I trust in him as Savior to redeem me from my sins - happily!
I am learning how to enter into his Kingdom, understanding the goodness of his Kingdom ruling and realizing all of the joy and peace that goes along with that - ever so slowly, happily so.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Resurrection Reality

Among the things that scripture speaks about that is as much a mystery as anything is the word: Resurrection.  It is a truth that NONE of us have ever seen.  We know that the Resurrection is based on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus.  Yet when Jesus was upon the earth he spoke about it repeatedly.  In one incident he was asked about it...but with an attempt to trip him up.

Luke 20:27-40 (NLT) 
27 Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead.
28 They posed this question: “Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife but no children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name.
29 Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children.
30 So the second brother married the widow, but he also died.
31 Then the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them, who died without children.
32 Finally, the woman also died.
33 So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her!”
34 Jesus replied, “Marriage is for people here on earth.
35 But in the age to come, those worthy of being raised from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage.
36 And they will never die again. In this respect they will be like angels. They are children of God and children of the resurrection.
37 “But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—even Moses proved this when he wrote about the burning bush. Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, he referred to the Lord as ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’
38 So he is the God of the living, not the dead, for they are all alive to him.”
39 “Well said, Teacher!” remarked some of the teachers of religious law who were standing there.
40 And then no one dared to ask him any more questions. 

The Sadducees  were the privileged elite of the Jewish leadership.  The Pharisees were the keepers of the Torah; the Sadducees were the keepers of the power.  They didn't believe in the resurrection - why?  Like many Jewish people today who descended through the Holocaust, the experience of the captivity had jaded many believing that God was reality, and that the after-life was truth.  Besides that, they claimed that the Pentateuch, those first five books of the Bible written by Moses claimed no reference to the idea of a resurrection.  They claimed the privileged position of the well-to-do...the haves...against all others who were not as well off as they.   Snobs, elitists, filled with a pompous sense of their own worth.  They stood confidently on their philosophical high horse and denigrated all who believed the Resurrection as reality.

A while ago I was driving to Madison and noticed the billboard sign:  "There is no after-life; There is only this life; Live it the way you want to".  The Sadducees live on!

When they approach Jesus, it is obvious they wish to expose him with a trick question.  They do not.  Now, beyond the discussion on marriage - which is interesting enough in itself - Jesus says three things about the immortality of the resurrection:
1)  "they are like the angels"
2)  "they are God's children"
3)  "they are children of the resurrection"
All of these are mutually descriptive...and each phrase describes the other. 
Like the angels:  Paul says we have been "sown in weakness" but will be "raised in power".  Like the angels we will serve God without the temptations and pulls away that come with lack of sight...not just physical sight, but spiritual sight and perception also.
But Jesus' greatest statement,to me, is the logic of referring back to the Patriarchs - the very people the Sadducees claimed were their authority in this - and making it clear, "God the father is the God of the living, not the dead, for they are all alive to him."

Mark's gospel adds an additional phrase to this encounter...he records Jesus saying, "are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?"

This is our great need...not just mentally believe, but have that knowledge that comes from knowing God and his power at work in our lives right now.