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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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The Sacrificial Lamb hosts a dinner

Gracious Father, Sweet Holy Spirit, Precious Jesus, this moment of remembrance catches me in my heart every single time. It is difficult thinking about those who betray you, let alone sharing a meal with them where you pour out your heart for them. You looked them in the eye and You saw their brokenness. You knew what they would do, and so soon. What an awesome example You have set for us. What an amazing grace & love You’ve shown. Please bless us with this grace, may we do the same & may You be glorified in it. In Jesus’ holy Name, amen.

Luke 22:7-22
“7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.”

If we needed an image for shocking compassion, this is certainly it. To say that the act of remembering is beneficial is a gross understatement. When I try to think through, in detail, the events of this evening, picturing myself as a silent observer, I am shamed along with the apostles & wonder if I have let my Lord down. It is easy to stand up like Peter and say that we would draw our sword & die for Him, but it proves to be much more difficult in practice. Jesus knew all that would happen with these men whom He called friends, and yet the Sacrificial Lamb hosts a dinner for them.

He gives them ownership, a part in the proceedings, and tells them to “…prepare so we may eat.” They have a task, a mission, to perform for the One they love. Their Master has asked them to do something they are capable of doing, something familiar, something they grew up experiencing, a meal they could recite by heart.

When He gives them this task, though, the elements are already present. The place is already secured. They are to do the work of preparing the meal, a hands on experience, remembering what each part means, remembering the story of Moses, the people enslaved & the bitterness of their lives. They folded napkins, prepared the bitter herbs, laid out the matzoh & lamb shank. Each part a reminder of something written deeply on their hearts, something that resonated even more deeply into their present condition & lives. The thing they wanted to see so much from the Messiah they followed: freedom & restoration.

In faith we find it so, even today. Jesus has prepared the dinner, He Himself the Sacrificial Lamb. He has tasted the bitterness, was moved in haste, broken & hidden away like the afikomen. As He moved through the dinner with those who would desert & betray Him, I have to wonder if their hearts were awakened to something new happening before their eyes. I have to hope that they saw something different this time. I wonder if the Time was bearing down on them like it was on Jesus, if there was a sense of urgency & expectancy like on that night in Egypt thousands of years before. I wonder if the air was electric that night, if pauses were pregnant with meaning & if Jesus allowed them to feel the weight of that gathering.

He brought them to His rest before suffering. He invited them in between the warp & the woof of the tapestry of time & showed them connections prophesied and planned. They were integrated forever into this holy plan, this divine coming together of God & man. This reclining would be His last rest before He suffered for them & for us. He invited them into this moment that the rest of us would have probably spent alone, withdrawn. He gave of Himself, served them, a meal with broken people before He would be broken for them.

The New Promise given by the New Sacrifice. Given so we may live. It is right & good to pause & remember this, watch & listen. You are invited into the rhythms of His grace, a seat at the table where Master serves the servant. Acceptance is found, repentance brought to mind & love is deepened at the table of Christ. Pause. Be present there & remember. He has invited you.

God’s Plans & the Plans of Men

A brief Sunday morning devotional.

Lord God, we know full well that our ways are not Your ways, that we often take the beauty of what You intend and attempt to recreate it in our own image. Father, please forgive our broken motives, and draw our hearts toward correction in You. Only when we humbly bow & obey will we find true beauty, purpose and joy in You. Grant us Your grace again today, and give us strength to walk with our Master, Jesus. Amen,

Galatians 4:21-31
21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than those of the one who has a husband.”

28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

We cannot seriously desire to trade the promises of God for the desires of our flesh. Yet, we hand over the eternal & holy for the temporary & twisted. We are given accounts like Abraham’s as a reminder of the consequences that come, the split allegiances that form, and the lives that are broken in the process. The life that attempts to pursue both God & personal desire is always going to deal with these problems. That is to say, we will all deal with these from time to time as our ability to follow God is still struggling with the desire to sin.

When we come to these daily crossroads, we need to remember that simple phrase that Paul uses here when speaking to the church in Galatia, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.” And we need to remember what that entails for us, and what He intends for us.

It is so easy to get caught up in the moment, and to struggle with those earthly pulls & influences. But God has something more, something better in mind for His children. We need to be intentional, take time daily, and bend our knee to the One who has paid the price for our salvation. A conscious surrender to Him is a conscious surrender to this better way, this simpler way, that honors God above self & promise over immediate gratification.

“So brothers, we are not children of the slave, but of the free woman.” We are heirs with Christ Jesus. Draw near to Him & leave the old ways behind.

Romans 2:1-11 // Qualified to Judge You?

“1 Therefore, any one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. 2 We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is based on the truth. 3 Do you really think — anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same — that you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. 6 He will repay each one according to his works: 7 eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth but are obeying unrighteousness; 9 affliction and distress for every human being who does evil, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does what is good, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. 11 There is no favoritism with God.”

Romans 2:1-11

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When you get into conversations about sin with people, whether in real life or online, and they decide that they want to throw a little scripture out there, they are often fond of quoting this passage from Jesus: “Do not judge, so that you wont be judged.” (Matthew 7:1.) It seems to be a favorite for use out of context and for those with little understanding. But they also ignore passages like these that show us where to use judgement:

John 7:24 – ‘Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.”

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 – “9 I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. 10 I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. 11 But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. 12 For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Dont you judge those who are inside? 13 But God judges outsiders. ‘Put away the evil person from among yourselves.'”

In these passages we are told to judge, to discern, what is going on in the heart of another person, to evaluate their actions. If you didn’t or couldn’t, how would you know if someone was immoral? You’d have to hold them up to some kind of standard. What if you met someone who was an abusive drunk, but ignored this passage? When you saw them and confronted them, they’d say “Judge not, man.” and you’d be left to say “Oh well, sorry.” and walk away. And how ridiculous would that be? You have to be able to judge if something is right or wrong, good or bad, righteous or unrighteous. To claim that is impossible or “wrong” to do is insane, because then the person is judging your judging and judging that it is wrong (and against what standard?) 

Instead, we need to understand that the judgement referred to is the judgment of the human soul, we are referring to an eternal judgement. When people put themselves in God’s place and make judgment calls about another human being, that is where the problem lies. There is nothing wrong in pointing out a wrong, but we are to leave the eternal type of judgment to God and God alone. But we still are called to see justice done, to see people treated properly and children taken care of, and those actions all require some form of judgement (discernment) between right and wrong. It is in our conversations with people about Jesus and the hope that we have in Him that we must have the conversations about right and wrong, standards and expectations. We must lay out what is good and profitable and right in the life, mind, heart, soul & body of a Christian, according to what we find in the Word from God. 

To act like we cannot speak into behavior or attitudes, again, is crazy. Even the people who misquote “judge not” do this on a daily basis, and when they do it, they justify it. So, we see what the real issue at hand is: people do not want to be convicted of their sin. They don’t want a standard set in front of their heart just to see that they do not measure up. Instead, they want to be left to their own devices, to do as they please. And in that desire, they set up perceived protection around their actions so that they are not confronted with the ugliness that lies in their hearts. And so “judge not” becomes their rally cry. But judgment is coming, and it is coming from God Himself. And those of us who know His standards have been given a responisibility to lay them out for people to see and hear, and even in that way, we are to do it with gentleness and respect. Prophets were sent to speak to God’s people for thousands of years, to point out what is right and wrong and direct their hearts toward God. Today, God uses us, the church, to speak to the world at large and declare His righteous judgements. Those judgments do not come from us, but from His Word, and we must be able to share with people what is good & bad, right & wrong. The Holy Spirit is responsible for conviction of sin, but we are responsible for communicating the message. We don’t hold judgement over men’s souls, but we do weigh their actions, the fruit of their lives. In fact, the more we read the Word, the more familair we bacome with the heart of God, the more we see that this judgement is done out of love.

James 5:19-20 – “My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.”

There must be a discerning so that we can GoLove people, warning them of the judgment that God will bring for every single one of us. There must be a line drawn between sin and faithfulness. It is irresponsible & illogical to think or live otherwise. If we are going to love people as God does, then we must do so in a way that reveals the truth about men’s actions and the motivations of the heart. 

Psalms 119:129-136 // פ Pe //  Escape from sin

“129 Your decrees are wonderful; therefore I obey them.

130 The revelation of Your words brings light

and gives understanding to the inexperienced.

131 I open my mouth and pant

because I long for Your commands.

132 Turn to me and be gracious to me,

as is Your practice toward those who love Your name.

133 Make my steps steady through Your promise;

don’t let any sin dominate me.

134 Redeem me from human oppression,

and I will keep Your precepts.

135 Show favor to Your servant,

and teach me Your statutes.

136 My eyes pour out streams of tears

because people do not follow Your instruction.”

Psalms 119:129-136

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Sin is something that should distress us & break our hearts. It is something to avoid and seek escape from. As David continues this great meditation on the Word of God, we see more and more how time spent with God in His Word brings right thoughts and attitudes. As we GoLove others in His Name, we should desire to be beter representatives of His Word. 

Read this portion of the psalm again a little more carefully and listen to what David is saying.

Read it a third time and put your heart where his seems to be.

Read it a fourth and final time, and make it a prayer of your own. 

Acts 18:24-28 // Intelligent Arguments for Faith

“24 A Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was powerful in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught the things about Jesus accurately, although he knew only Johns baptism. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home and explained the way of God to him more accurately. 27 When he wanted to cross over to Achaia, the brothers wrote to the disciples urging them to welcome him. After he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace. 28 For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating through the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.”

Acts 18:24-28

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There are several people in Scripture that are on my ‘I wish we knew more about this person’ list. John the Baptist is up at the top along with Melchizedek & Apollos is probably somewhere in my top ten. I think what is so intriguing about Apollos is his obvious passion and his desire for learning. Thos are two very admirable traits and they do serve to attract people to the message. A well spoken apologist, Apollos made an impression wherever he went for the sake of the Gospel. But, while being well-learned, he was also still teachable & that is a huge step toward his being approachable. People who are intelligent can also come off as arrogant & prideful. Apollos does not & in his humility, we learn a lot of how to engage others for the sake of Christ.

When it comes to engaging those who oppose us, we see that firm stance and vigorus refuting is totally okay. Someties, as Christians, we are under the belief that humility and meekness define us, and so to raise our voice or get excited might undermine the Gospel. On the contrary, we see Peter, Paul, Apollos, John the Baptist & countless Old Testament prophets stand firm, publicly confident, defending the faith and the Word of God. We have been marked as those who reveal the light of God’s truth to a dark and wandering world. And in this revelation, we must be sure, certain and secure. This is why it is totally acceptable to be both Christian and intelligent. This is why it is necessary for us to know what we believe and why.

Apollos turned to the Scriptures to give the answer for the hope that he had, and so should we. Listen to Peter, the fisherman who didn’t complete Rabbinical school, but at age 11-13 would have begun learning the family trade. What value does he give to knowledge and apologetics? Why do you think this is? It is important for us all to understand the ‘what’s’ and ‘why’s’ behind our faith so that we can answer well, defend well and put the knowledge of the Scriptures to work in our hearts, minds and mouths as we GoLove others in Jesus’ Name. 

1 Peter 3:13-16
“13 And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, 15 but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.”

2 Peter 1:3-11
“3 His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 4 By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self- control, self- control with endurance, endurance with godliness, 7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. 11 For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you.”

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