Advertisements

Blog Archives

Thank God.

LORD of reconciliation, Master of mercy, Author of true joy, there is no greater hope to be found than the hope You have provided through Jesus Christ. You alone have the words of life, there is nowhere else to turn. Peace flows from the veins of Christ across all of us who were once at war with You, & You have drawn us near, glorifying Yourself. This is not our effort, but Yours, not our battle, but Yours, not our righteousness, but Yours & You alone are praised for the defeat of sin & death & victory over the grave rests with You. Open our eyes, revive our hearts & continue to draw glory to Yourself as we spread the Gospel around the world. We pray this through Christ our Lord, amen.

Luke 24:36-53
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

I am real
You wouldn’t think you would ever read through the Scriptures & come out thankful that Jesus ate fish. It’s such a simple action, a basic thing to do. Look at His life with His disciples, how many times do you think Jesus ate fish? Grilled fish, baked fish, boiled fish, broiled fish, stewed fish, smoked fish & I’m sure the possibilities continue. But Jesus takes this common basic thing, this simple sign of something comfortable to reassure His disciples that He is indeed really there with them, present & constant. He’s no spirit, no ghost, no hallucination & He proves it by eating something they themselves prepared. I would have done some small miracle before them, shown myself through a divine sign, proving myself in that way. But He chooses something they can do & duplicate & I think that says an awful lot more.

He wanted them to know without a shadow of a doubt that He was indeed alive, present & moving forward into the next phase of life & covenant with them. A risen Savior is a real Savior, & this crew of confused & disheartened disciples needed something they could sink their teeth into, like a piece of fish. Jesus provided that for them that wonderful morning.

Forgiveness is real
Not only did Jesus want them to see & understand that He was & is real, He wanted them to remember the context of everything that had just happened & that not one moment of it all was coincidence or accident. He reminded them of the Scriptures they were raised with, a comfortable & familiar remembrance. He reminded them about Moses & the prophets & everything the Father had promised & been promising over the preceding millennia. This was the plan the whole time.

And why? This didn’t happen for nothing, right? This wasn’t something that was done simply for the sake of saying it would be accomplished. This is the promise of God to glorify Himself by the redemption of creation & humanity to Himself. This was all about God offering forgiveness to rebels like them & us & bringing peace & righteousness back into creation. This was the first step in seeing holiness win out over sin & evil. The foot of the Savior was bitten by that serpent, but his head was now thoroughly crushed. This has been the plan since the garden had to be cleared out  & Adam & Eve first perceived their own nakedness & brokenness entered the world. This was all about God’s glory & how He would provide forgiveness to all who would come to Him.

You are witnesses
And Jesus didn’t leave them out, either. In this moment where disbelief & joy slam into each other, Jesus reminded them that they had a part to play in this whole wonderful affair. This wasn’t just something done for them, but to them & would now happen through them. They are -the- witnesses to this universe altering news. They are the ones who would take this first-hand account of holy truth into the world. They are the ones with these words written on their hearts because they lived it, every single moment of it. Where they were feeling hopeless just hours before, & confused just moments ago, Jesus was letting them know from the onset that they had what everyone else needed. They have a purpose to fulfill. They are the bearers of the Gospel of love, peace, mercy, grace & forgiveness, & if this world is going to learn how to walk in the rhythms of grace with God, the it’s going to happen through them sharing all of this good news.

Joy is real
The world needs to know that joy is real. There is so much trouble, so many hurts, so many reasons to mourn & feel trapped in the brokenness & God doesn’t desire for another moment to pass from this one where people don’t know about the beacon of joy that will draw them back into wholeness with Him. Jesus knew that people outside of that room would struggle, & so He was sending out people who had struggled. Jesus knew that people outside that room would doubt, & so He sent out people who wrestled with doubt. He knew that people outside that room would deal with loss, sorrow & pain & so He sent out these people who had those feelings fresh on their hearts.

He knew the world needed joy, so He sent these out who were first to experience it. This fresh message, this amazing truth was needed more deeply than anyone could imagine & this firestorm of joy would burn without ceasing for the millennia to come. The disciples carried it, you & I who are in Christ carry it & the world still desperately needs to know about it. There is work to be done, joy to be spread. The Savior is real. Forgiveness is real. We are the witness to true & lasting joy. Let the whole world hear our praises!

Advertisements

The Way of Deepest Honor

Father of mercy & grace, I praise You this morning for Your consistency & faithfulness. You are deeply loving, and amazingly generous with us who are so broken & so desperately in need of You. It is so easy for us to get hung up in ourselves, to focus on our own accomplishments & struggles. Thank You for these reminders about Your authority, grace & humble servanthood. Remind us again today what it means to serve like Jesus, having the same attitude humility. I pray this in His Name, amen.

Luke 22:24-30
24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“But I am among you as the one who serves.” We should probably reread that sentence every morning at least, shouldn’t we? Maybe we should put it on Post-It Notes, and tack it up around our home & work spaces, put one on our dashboard in our car & stick one on the handle of our grocery cart on days when we’re in a hurry, too. Jesus says, “Look, I see this world & it’s structures, I really do. I understand the social pressures & the expectations you put on yourselves & your culture presses on everyone…but I am different. And because I’m different, I want you do be different just like I am different. Look at my example. Examine what I’m doing. Look more deeply into me & put less stock into what this world says. Follow Me.”

For those of us who’ve spent any time with Jesus, we know this is the right answer. We know what His example is for us, but we still struggle like the apostles did with this expectation we see the world cramming in our faces. Humility is a trait that is definitely admirable, but in this world it will get you run over, left behind & forgotten. People who really accomplish things are bold & make a name for themselves. They are pacesetters & captains of industry. People take notice of them & they build a name for themselves, These are the people set as our examples. They write books & do interviews. They get things named after them & they gain the admiration of everyone. That’s what we’re trained to shoot for in this life.

Count Nicholas Von Zinzindorf said this though, and he is more on track with Jesus than this mindset of looking out for number one. He said, “Preach the Gospel, die & be forgotten.” Inspirational, right? We’re probably not going to see a poster made of that one & hanging on the wall of a Fortune 500 office anytime soon.

IMG_DC9EB03D0796-1

This isn’t the way our world works. But this is the way of Christ. This is the reality that we are adopted into when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior & Master. Listen to Jesus again. Hear what He has to say.

“But I am among you as the one who serves.”

What would change in your world today if you and I really adopted that mindset? What will you do differently today if you choose to be forgotten so that Christ might be exalted? Who will you find to focus on if you take the efforts of your heart today and turn them toward that person in an attitude of servanthood like Jesus showed us? What kind of impact would you have on your family? Your friends? How might Jesus be lifted up & how might God be more deeply praised & glorified because of you?

Be among your peers today as one who serves. Walk among your family today as one who serves. Don’t seek your own way, your own priorities today. Walk like Jesus walked. Move in the rhythms of His grace. Wrap a towel around your waist & pick up the basin of water as you bend to wash the feet of those around you in His example & in His Name. You’ve seen the example of this world. You’ve seen what temporary things that accomplishes. Look instead to Jesus & serve today as He would serve.

 

You are known by God

Do you think that the Queen of England ever forgets her status? Do you think she ever gets up in the morning, looks around the royal bedchambers, notices a staff member setting up the tray for her morning tea, opening the curtains, laying out her things and wonders, “Well, who is this and why are they doing all this?”
No. Of course not. She’s the queen, and that life is what is afforded for her. It is part of her rank and status that she would be so cared for & so well attended. While she may have no real power, she is still beloved by those who are hers.

We often forget what we have been afforded in Christ. We look around at the world God has created, at he provision He has laid out for us, we forget how dearly loved we are. We forget =Whose= we are and we fall into the trap of disbelieving just how deeply and how greatly we are loved.

Galatians 4:1-11
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything,
but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

God has made provision for =you= in Jesus Christ. He has shown the depth of His love, and breadth of His grace. He has given us a wonderful gift beyond measure. But so often we see and observe, and we turn back to what we once had. That is what Paul is dealing with in this portion of his letter to the Galatian church. Why would we turn back to the life that once had us, to the pain that once ensnared us? Why would you turn back to death once you have been brought back to life?

But we do it every day.

We leave behind the rich appointments of grace to wallow in the filth of our own sin.

This is why we are daily glad for grace, and for the presence of the Holy Spirit that corrects us.  There is mourning that comes with this realization, but it is a mourning that is infused with hope.

Lamentations 3:19-26
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

You are deeply loved and dearly bought when you are clothed with Christ. You are afforded a richness that comes with being drawn into the presence of the Living God. Jesus gave proof to His disciples after He was resurrected by doing something simple, He ate with them. He wanted them to see that this was the new reality, the new normal. The life they had been appointed to was past and there was something new on the way. This is what Jesus does for us, this is what God has laid out for us. It’s all for =His= glory, but as heirs, we share in the glorious promises of righteousness.

Luke 24:36-49
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

God will take great care to clothe us, care for us and shower us with His love. We are His children, deeply loved, dearly bought. Just as Christ did simple things, like eating fish, to convince His disciples that things really were as they were, even thought it was beyond hope, maybe even beyond belief, He was alive again and there, present with them. Just as He did that, we need to remember that every day, through many convincing proofs, God reminds us that He is present with us, loving us. He is our Abba, our Father, our Daddy & He cares very much for us.

Rest in His arms today. Let Him sing over you. May the joy of the Lord be your strength.

Mark 2:13-17 // The sick who think they’re healthy

“13 Then Jesus went out again beside the sea. The whole crowd was coming to Him, and He taught them. 14 Then, moving on, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him.

15 While He was reclining at the table in Levis house, many tax collectors and sinners were also guests with Jesus and His disciples, because there were many who were following Him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didnt come to call the righteous, but sinners.””
Mark 2:13-17

So, everyone is sick. We are all affected by sin. But it is really hard to convince someone who thinks they’re holy that they’re not, that they’re no different than anybody else. The self-righteous are inherently stubborn, prideful and so focused on what wrongs others are doing that they have almost forgotten how to look inside themselves.

Now, there is a chance, a slight chance, that by seeing Jesus eating with ‘sinners’ that the Scribes and Pharisees would see a man who apparently knows Scripture better than anyone else seems to, who teaches with an authority that no one else wields, that is they saw Him eating with sinners and doing things so differently than them, that their curiosity would at least be piqued and they would begin to examine again what they thought they no longer needed to examine. But that was a slim chance, again, self-righteous people are hard to convince of anything. Pride is such a constant companion that the notion of even being wrong is so far fetched that it doesn’t enter the realm of possibility.

Matthew & his crew of compatriots were quick to accept their sinfulness because everyone was probably always telling them just how awful they were. They were so acquainted with the idea of being disliked that they simply just assumed they never would be. And so when Jesus comes along, the opposite reaction occurs. They are thrilled to discover that they are okay to be around, that a man who seems to be on equal or better footing with the Pharisees, a respectable man, comes to them, shows solidarity with them, and begins to tell them that they can indeed be a part of what God is doing. This thrills Matthew to no end, so much so that his house is packed with others in his situation in time for supper that night.

Both groups were told Jesus was here to help anyone who needed help, but only one identified themselves as needing help, and so the other group sat outside, griping and complaining in the cold, dead to the fact of their own struggle, while the other enjoyed the company of God, the light of truth and the relief of mercy & grace.

When your life is all about your works, it makes accepting any good news that might bring relief a very difficult thing to do. When your life is all about you, then you feel no compulsion to GoLove others, but instead you spend your days condemning them. It is a sad pitiable place to live, and on this night, the tax collectors, sinners and outcasts of society had a warm, rich dinner in a place of acceptance while the supposedly self-righteous ate the herbs of bitterness and discontent.

If our walk in Christ lacks joy, it may be time to examine what and where we’re eating. If we think we can get through life just fine without Him, we need to examine just why we think we’ve come to this conclusion. Both reactions require an honest look at ourselves, and an honest conversation with God.

sometimes a meal changes everything…

it is pretty much understood that having a meal with someone conveys a general acceptance of them. it doesn’t mean you endorse their every action, but that you see them as valuable. you recognize that they are indeed a human being, just as you are, and that they are just as much a child of God as you are, no matter where they may be in their walk. and the leaders in Jesus day knew this. they knew that eating with someone conveyed more meaning than just having a warm body nearby, and so they forbid anyone who wanted to be a ‘good jew’ form doing just that. good little boys and girls only ate with other little boys and girls who were ‘good’ just like them. those bad kids were to be left alone, ignored, shunned. they were not seen as being equally loved by God. they were not seen as being of any value whatsoever. so that is precisely why Jesus breaks protocol, and treats these tax collectors and other various ‘sinners’ that He comes across in such a different way.

and as we know, being different really got up under the leader’s skin. conformity was the rule for power over others.

so Jesus brings His disciples, who are undoubtedly uncomfortable in this situation, into the home of levi…a traitorous, thieving, half-jew tax collector. this was a ‘no-no’ for good little jews. they should never have entered his home, let alone sat down to eat with him. and so the leaders stand out in the street watching Jesus actually talk to ‘those people’ and treating them like they weren’t who they were…and they knew who they were.

this had to have bugged the living daylights out of them. and that makes me very happy. yes, i have a non-conformist streak in me. nothing crazy, nothing overpowering, but just enough to enjoy seeing accounts like this. i am not perplexed by Jesus’ actions here. having been the guy on the outside before in social situations, i am very pleased with Jesus’ choices here. not just for my sake, because really i have lived a pretty tame life, but for the sake of those who have spent the bulk of their life on the outside.

they must be told, and more importantly shown, that they are valuable. no social barrier is to keep the gospel from being spread. no one should ever feel like they are beyond being loved. no one should ever feel like they are past all hope, relegated to just being a ‘sinner’ for the rest of their lives.

and so Jesus goes to levi’s home, to sit, to eat, to talk, knowing that sometimes a meal changes everything. sometimes just being a friend to someone, a real friend, can break down walls, open and revive hearts that were solid stone and thought to be dead. as long as we each draw breath, there is hope. there is always hope.

churchill’s quote “never give in. never give in. never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. never yield to force. never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” applies here as well as in it’s original context. our ‘convictions of honor and good sense’ are the example of Jesus and the leading of the Spirit to live and work and act in the lives of those who have been waylaid by the enemy. satan has done a marvelous job making us think that our primary enemy is other people. but that is not the truth. there may be people who are acting as agents of the enemy, but they are not the enemy himself. they may have been waylaid, ambushed and brainwashed, but they are never beyond hope…never, never, never, never beyond hope. the devil is our primary adversary, and we must realize that sometimes, in the midst of battle, enemy troops can be brought back home through some simple hospitality, loving-kindness, and compassion.

sometimes a meal changes everything. sometimes it’s a simple ‘hello’ that can begin to break down walls. some people just want to be wanted, that’s all they’re looking for…and who are we to withhold that from them?

Father, forgive me when i pronounce judgment on others in my heart. forgive me when i do not treat them the way You do. forgive me when i live as the ungrateful, unmerciful servant. help me to have a heart of true compassion, and the strength to speak out and show Your love, interceding in the life of those who feel like they are on the outside.

forgive me. embolden me.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Spirit, have mercy.

amen.

%d bloggers like this: