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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!

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Shadows & Glory

Father, thank You for bringing us signs and symbols along the way that point our hearts toward You and toward Your plan. Shadows of glory-to-come remind our hearts of Your provision in the past, present and future. Shadows of glory-to-come remind us of Your intent to see Your Name glorified and Your will done.  These shadows were not without purpose and meaning, but they are not as deep, or wide or full as the true sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. We bless His Holy Name & we bless the Holy Spirit that reveals these things to our hearts. Amen.

Hebrews 10:1-10
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.
Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

As we read through the Old & New Testaments, we find so many parallels, so many things that call forward and backward to one another. Abraham sacrificing his only son, the son he loves, as an act of trust in God and God’s provision in that moment of sacrifice with a ram is a direct call to Christ’s sacrifice, His substitutionary death. God, working through Moses, parts the waters, His people pass through from an old life into a new following and dedication to Him pointing toward baptism and new life yet to come through Christ. All these shadows, all these interconnected events throughout history point us toward God’s will and His provision throughout the course and pathway of time.

But God wasn’t content to let things rest in shadows and symbols. He would be glorified when they played out to their fullness. We see humanity keeping laws and walking in the rhythms of the law, but God speaks to us through Christ and teaches us to walk according to the rhythms of His grace. Walking in the reality of the thing, rather than just in the symbol of it, is walking in depth and mercy and love. He has provided a deeper meaning for us to lash our hearts to and find our rest.

It also comes down to intent. Obedience to God’s will matters more than our ritual obedience. Our hearts must be engaged, not just our schedules. Jesus’ sacrifice is the true sacrifice, the others were simply shadows pointing towards it. He had to be engaged, not just pointed toward in order for wholeness to come to us and for glory to go to God.

Acting within the symbol of the thing does not mean as much as actually doing the thing. Otherwise it’s just words & words without action equates to hypocrisy.

And so we come to God, thanking Him for not just giving us a symbol of salvation, but for actually providing it for us. Through Jesus Christ, we find the symbol & shadow, the ritual sacrifice, done away with and the true sacrifice taking its place. In this fact and in the faith God provides, we find our rest. May we be that shadow, then, that points someone toward the reality of the cross today. May the image of Christ at work in us draw people to the true Christ and their salvation. May they see Christ at work in our speech, our actions and our attitudes as we walk with Him daily in the rhythms of His grace. May we step aside, so they can see God & give Him the glory.

Father, thank You for bringing us signs and symbols along the way that point our hearts toward You and toward Your plan. Shadows of glory-to-come remind our hearts of Your provision in the past, present and future. Shadows of glory-to-come remind us of Your intent to see Your Name glorified and Your will done.  These shadows were not without purpose and meaning, but they are not as deep, or wide or full as the true sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. We bless His Holy Name & we bless the Holy Spirit that reveals these things to our hearts. Amen.

Beyond the Shadows of Life

Lord, do not let us accept what is temporary in place of what is eternal. Do not let us look in the dim mirror and prefer what we see over what is true. Father, unfold our hearts within this life to long for what is yet to come so strongly that all we see here is what You are pointing to eternally. Let us shake off then, what is temporary and pursue what lasts. Amen.

This morning we continue our meditation on our Great High Priest, Jesus. We have seen His heart as we read through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd parts of His High Priestly Prayer in John 17. And so we return to this place in Hebrews where we get to sit & listen & be reminded of who it is that serves as our mediator. This is mystery to me, wrapped up in grace beyond measuring, that God would be the go-between for us and Himself in this way. We are certainly unworthy, we can see and feel that every day. It’s not hard to see the evidence there. But His grace catches us off guard and reaches down deep within us and offers up this wonderful, expectation-shattering truth. Read through this reality slowly, listening to God’s love song over you. Listen to the words of the prophet Zephaniah and then listen to the author of Hebrews explain how God brought that to pass. Rest and be reassured in the rhythms of grace in the song of God over you.

Zephaniah 3:17
The Lord your God is in your midst,

    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Hebrews 8:1-13
“1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,
a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.

Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
    on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
    and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

Lord, do not let us accept what is temporary in place of what is eternal. Do not let us look in the dim mirror and prefer what we see over what is true. Father, unfold our hearts within this life to long for what is yet to come so strongly that all we see here is what You are pointing to eternally. Let us shake off then, what is temporary and pursue what lasts. Amen.

Mark 15:21-32 // Challenging Him to do what He was already doing

“21 They forced a man coming in from the country, who was passing by, to carry Jesus cross. He was Simon, a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 And they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means Skull Place). 23 They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He did not take it. 

24 Then they crucified Him and divided His clothes, casting lots for them to decide what each would get. 25 Now it was nine in the morning when they crucified Him. 26 The inscription of the charge written against Him was:

THE KING OF THE JEWS.

27 They crucified two criminals with Him, one on His right and one on His left. [28 So the Scripture was fulfilled that says: And He was counted among outlaws.] 29 Those who passed by were yelling insults at Him, shaking their heads, and saying, “Ha! The One who would demolish the sanctuary and build it in three days, 30 save Yourself by coming down from the cross!” 31 In the same way, the chief priests with the scribes were mocking Him to one another and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself!” 32 “Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe.” Even those who were crucified with Him were taunting Him.”

Mark 15:21-32 

— 

Two taunts from the crowd that day are recorded here. Both spoken in ignorance that He was actively engaged with doing the things they were challenging Him to do! 

First, 

“Ha! The One who would demolish the sanctuary and build it in three days, save Yourself by coming down from the cross!” 
When Jesus spoke about destroying and rebuilding the temple in three days, we as Christians know that He was plainly referencing His own body. He was actively engaged in that exercise, having been flight, beaten, punched, punctured and crucified. Those mocking couldn’t see this, of course, because of their own anger and hatred of Him. They had convinced themselves He had threatened their physical building when in reality He had been prophesying about this exact event. The darkness of their hearts and the infatuations of their minds and egoes kept them from ever really hearing and understanding Him. 

The second point of mockery is a two parter. 

“He saved others; He cannot save Himself!! Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe.”

He was in the process of saving, as they mocked Him for it and His remaining on the cross is the only thing that could make it possible. Also, what they asked for Him to do, sarcastically, is what inspires belief today for us all. 

Again, for the Christian, neither of these two points of ridicule are new news, nor is the ignorance of the religious leaders. These two examples are fairly elementary in the understanding of our faith, but they are crucial at the same time. 

Jesus plainly said that the people crucifying Him didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t understand, either because they were just Romans doing their jobs or because their hearts were so hard. When you and I sin, we are playing part in Christ’s crucifixion, too, but our hearts and minds typically do not register this fact. It’s difficult to think about and painful to realize. Again, either from a lack of understanding or from a hardness of heart. 

We need to ask God to use His Holy Spirit to open our eyes to ourselves. That we would see the points where we are calloused, and identify the areas where we wear blinders against out own faults. We need to be conscious of our failings and ready to forgive others of theirs. None of us is any better than another, but the gift of Christ crucified is what brings us healing and restoration. 

If we are going to GoLove others, we need to teach them about the reality of sin and the reality of Christ’s gift of mercy and grace. We need to teach them to receive Him into their hearts and minds so that they can be renewed by Him and baptized into a new life with new perspective that begins and ends with Him. Teach the elementary things so they understand just what He has done for them, and then live it out in your own life. 



reality: it’s not what you think you think it possibly is, usually…

there are lots of fun things to wonder about that we will never know the answers to…

for example, our senses, is what i perceive green to look like what you see as well? do we all see the wavelengths of light the same way? you would think we would, we have near identical make-ups when it comes to how those processes work, but that doesn’t mean that what happens in the process of perception is the same. (and then there are those who are color blind in varying degrees, those are a whole other set of questions.)

when i taste a cup of coffee, or a bagel or a hot ham & cheese sandwich, it what i taste what you taste? we may have a similar description of what it is, but that is because it is a learned response. we may both perceive the sandwich to taste good, we may both enjoy what we understand to be the mellow undertones of the ham mixed with the sharper flavors of the swiss cheese or the bite of the brown mustard…

i know, it’s a big mystery, right? (okay, not a real big mystery) it’s not one we’re usually concerned with. it’s not something we care much about, because we all assume that we share a common experience in these basic areas of life. and in truth, we probably do. it’s going to be those odd times (like when someone is color blind) that things divert from what is ‘normal.’

so how do we determine what reality is? how do we come to some sort of understanding or common ground? colossians 2:17 tells us that reality is found in Christ. everything else is gauged from Him. What we see today must be seen through the filter of the cross in order for us to truly see. the images the world places before us are coated in opinion and propaganda and distorted by sin. 

so, when people were coming out to see Jesus, when those crowds started to grow to the point where there were always people pushing in from all sides, we may wonder what their motivation was, what were they seeing in Jesus that compelled them so strongly?

Jesus tells those who witnessed the feeding of the 5000  that they returned because they got a free meal…their stomachs were filled. but that’s not what His main concern was when people came together. if they weren’t after physical things, then maybe they had a political agenda to be fulfilled, or maybe they had more questions than anything. there were also those who wanted to desperately find fault in Him so they could feel better about their own choices in life.

were their concerns carnal or spiritual? what drove them? what were they after?

and the same questions need to be asked of us today. what do we see  when we look at Jesus? what is it that we are after? are we trying to fulfill a base desire? or do we seek something more? what draws us to Jesus? just what are we in pursuit of?

Jesus will meet us wherever we may be in the process, but His desire is to obviously bring us to the point where we experience and see things in the same way that He did and does. then, and only then, will we have a proper idea of what reality is, just how great the love of God is, and why sin brings His wrath.

Jesus, please give us Your perspective. help us to truly see.

amen.

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