Christianity 201

August 25, 2017

Even the Weather Obeys Him

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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We’re paying a return visit today to Bryan Lowe and his blog, Broken Believers. Click the title below to read this at source. We had several good articles to choose from, so click through and look around.

Here Be Giants!

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”  Deuteronomy 31:8, NLT

There is an ancient map in London, England dated from 1525, that has some interesting notations written on it. At one edge someone wrote, “From this point there are fiery scorpions.’  And also written, was “Here be dragons.” On the other margin somebody else noted, ‘Here be giants.” But a believer named Sir John Franklin wrote on this same map, “Here is God.”

Certainly cartographic scorpions, dragons and giants seem to be bit quaint. We certainly don’t really believe in such things anymore. Yet the presence of God is true and quite real. He is present, and is quite active in the lives of everyone who has ever used a map of any sort.

35 “As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”  Mark 4:25-41, NLT

The Sea of Galilee actually has four names, and it actually isn’t a sea, but a lake with sweet and good water. The lake is over 13 miles long and 7 miles at its widest point. The way the hills surround the lake can produce waves over 20 feet, due to unique weather pattern that exists today.

The disciples were seasoned fishermen. They had each seen tough times, but what is going to be unleashed on them is far and above anything they have ever seen. They were frightened.

Jesus was pretty much exhausted. He had been ministering for several days. This was a stretch. A trip across the lake would give Him a definite break. He is so tired, He falls asleep, using a “boat cushion” as a pillow. He is soon sound asleep.

The disciples seem to respect Jesus’ need for rest. But it all gets chaotic and confused quite quickly. None of them had experienced such a terrible storm. They woke Jesus up, and strongly suggested that He do something decisive. Otherwise, they would all be lost.

Jesus was awakened to another need. My guess is that He needed more sleep, but the present moment He needed to speak boldly into this ugly storm. The waves are quite nasty, but at His Word spoken, everything becomes quite serene.

His disciples are undone. They simply draw different conclusions. What they have just seen strips them down to a basic level. The deep presence of Him takes apart of all they understand. God takes them apart, and they end up in a very interesting position.

Our perceptions shouldn’t alter the presence of God. He is our steady rock in our ‘quicksand world.’ He shuts down our storms. You can truly rest with Him in your boat, controlling the storms.


Related: If you grew up in your church you know the song which follows, which is based on today’s scripture text. But if you didn’t give this a listen even if it’s not your usual musical genre.

 

May 26, 2017

A New Kind of Family Gathering

It’s been three years into his ministry working with the same core group of twelve guys as well as several women who also followed him and helped finance his ministry.

And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
 ~Luke 22:15

We get the “before I suffer” part. He has information he wants to impart to them. But more importantly, he wants to impart a symbol to them. He knows what he will do. He knows he will break the bread. He knows what he will do with the third cup. The Jews for Jesus website explains this to us Gentiles:

The third cup is referred to as either the cup of redemption or the cup of blessing…The New Testament names one of the cups—the cup taken after supper, which is traditionally the third cup. Jesus calls this cup “the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20)…Both Jesus and Paul draw on something from Jewish tradition to provide insights not previously understood. By calling the cup “the new covenant in my blood,” Jesus makes a direct reference to the promise of Jeremiah 31. God had declared that He would make a new covenant because the previous covenant had become “broken” (Jeremiah 31:32).

But forgive me for stepping back from the more meaningful, to something you may find simply superficial. Let’s delete “before I suffer” for a moment, and we’re left with: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you.”

The commentary Gill’s Exposition of the Bible offers a hint of where I’m going with this (emphasis added):

“…though he had kept many Passovers, yet of none of them did he say what he does of this, which was his fourth Passover from his entrance on his public ministry, and his last: two reasons are suggested in the text why he so greatly desired to eat this Passover; the one is, because he should eat it “with” his disciples; an emphasis lies on the phrase, “with you”, to whom, and not so much to the Passover, and the eating of that, was his desire; as it is to all his people: it was so from everlasting, when he desired them as his spouse and bride; and in time, when he became incarnate, suffered, died, and gave himself for them: his desire is towards them whilst in unregeneracy, that they may be converted; and to them when converted, notwithstanding all their backslidings and revoltings.”

We don’t see any mention of Jesus celebrating previous Passovers with The Twelve. This was, as we would expect from our family observances of Christmas or Easter, a time of family gathering.

Luke 2:41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.

I am speculating here, but I would think that most of, if not all the disciples would have spent this time with their immediate family. But Jesus is instituting a new family order:

Luke 14:16 If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.

Think about that for a moment in a modern context. Can you imagine the pastor of a multi-staff church walking into a staff meeting sometime in early November and saying, “This year, I want us all as a team to spend the Thanksgiving meal together at a special location I’m going to reserve.”

Peter, who we know had a mother-in-law (in other words, married) might be torn on a holiday between two sets of family with which to observe the feast. But instead, Jesus is saying that his core group, his spiritual family presupposes a new type of family gathering.

Here again our friends at Jews for Jesus again provide some help in a different article:

A common Jewish view was that the messianic era would be preceded by a time of disharmony in family and social relationships. In other words, things were going to get worse before they got better. In his sayings quoted above, Jesus was announcing the messianic age and his own messiahship. In doing so, he was quoting from the Old Testament prophet Micah who spoke of the messianic age in the following terms:

Put no trust in a neighbor;
have no confidence in a friend;
guard the doors of your mouth
from her who lies in your arms;
for the son treats the father with contempt,
the daughter rises up against her mother,
the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.
Micah 7:5–6

Here’s the backstory: Micah had been speaking of God’s judgment that would come on Judah because of the nation’s corruption and moral failure. According to Micah’s words earlier in his book, this judgment would take the form of a military siege by an outside enemy. In this context, social relationships would fall apart and even close relatives would no longer trust one another. Social deterioration would be the end result of Judah’s moral failure.

In much Second Temple and rabbinic Jewish literature, this same passage and similar descriptions characterize the final “day of the Lord.” Before the Messiah arrives, or during that time period, there will be a time of  social dislocation. (See the section “Going Deeper” below for citations.)

Jesus is not encouraging hate. Rather, he is saying that social networks will be torn apart because the time of Messiah is now here. People will be divided over Jesus and his call to repentance and faith. Social unrest was not Jesus’ goal. But when God’s kingdom comes, sin stands out in sharp relief.

They then go on to remind us that Jesus affirms the commandment to honor father and mother.

So this is yet another issue in the Christian life where a place of balance is needed.

What could we take from this? Are there times we need to prioritize our spiritual family on special occasions or special events? How many times do people miss out on serving the needs of the poor or the lonely on a holiday because of perceived family obligations? Could we balance the two models by opening our home on special days to non-family members?


Go Deeper: Read the entire article at J4J regarding “hating” parents.

 

May 2, 2017

The Cup of Sorrows and The Worth of a Soul

It’s been a year since we last visited with Jack Wellman at the website Rhetorical Jesus. His devotional posts are shorter than what we normally do here, so we’re giving you a double feature. Titles for each are also links back to his site, and there you’ll also find a graphic for each day which you can use to introduce a link to one of his articles on your own social media. (I haven’t borrowed those here to give you another reason to click through.) The topics are most engaging, so choose one that you think might apply to the people in your online social circle.

Can you drink from the same cup that I am going to drink from?

Matthew 20:22

Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.

Who Is the Greatest?

The mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John, came up to Jesus, knelt before Him, and asked Him if her two sons could sit at Jesus’ right hand (Matt 22:20-21). Can you imagine that? The disciples’ mother came up to Jesus asking Him if her sons could be chief rulers in the kingdom, which is what is meant by sitting at Jesus’ right hand. Jesus then asked the men if they’re able to drink from the same cup that He was about to drink from, and with no hesitation, James and John said, “Yes.” (Matt 20:22). Jesus did agree about their eventually drinking from His cup, but as for whether or not they would sit at Jesus’ right hand is up to the Father (Matt 20:23).

What Is the Cup?

This cup that Jesus was about to partake in was Calvary, and this included His drinking the cup of all the sins of all humanity of all time: past, present, and future. This the disciples could not do, nor could they drink of the cup of His illegal trial, His scourging by the Roman guards, or His torture on the cross. However, they would eventually go through suffering for their faith, but, of course, not to the same extent and measure that Christ did. Indeed, no one has (Isaiah 53). All believers, if they are living out their faith in public, such as at home, school, or work, will suffer at least some degree of persecution for what they believe. It might be behind their back, but they, too, will have a cup of persecution that they’ll drink from, at least if they are living out their faith publically and are bearing fruit of the Holy Spirit (John 15).

Anger and Jealousy

When the other disciples heard what James’ and John’s mother had asked, they were angry (Matt 20:24). Maybe they were angry because they didn’t think of it first or that James’ and John’s mother was trying to cull some favor from Jesus, which made them mad. Jesus saw their anger and called them over to speak with them. He said that the Gentile kings love to sit in places of power and rule over others and to be served (Matt 20:25-28). Jesus said that this is not how believers are to operate. We are to be servants, and just as Jesus said, He came to be a servant and die, giving His life as a ransom for others (like you and me). He came to serve and not be served, and He gave more than all by His dying for us (Matt 20:28).

A Closing Prayer

Father God, You are so kind to me and patient with me for the many times that I try to place myself above others. Please forgive me when I do that, and help me to realize that the greatest of Your people are not striving to sit at Your right hand, but to serve people in humility. I ask for Your help in this area, and in the name above all names, Jesus Christ, I pray.

What is your own soul worth?

Matthew 16:26

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Denying the Self but Not Christ

For much of my Christian walk, I did just the opposite. Instead of denying myself but not Christ, I denied Christ and didn’t deny myself much of anything. This, of course, is not walking with Christ as a disciple. Instead of dying to self, I put Christ to death in my life. I have tried to do better and not deny Christ in public before others, but deny myself before others and not Christ. Jesus said one little powerful word, and it was “if.” If we want to follow Christ, we must deny ourselves (Matt 16:24). If we want to save our life, ironically, we’ll lose it. If we desire to lose our life, we will find it (Matt 16:25). Once more, I tend to do just the opposite.

What Does It Profit?

If we can gain all that we can for a temporary life that is like a vapor (James 4:14), we have gained nothing because life is short, but eternity is a very, very long time. Can you put a value on a soul that is lost for all eternity? A man and a woman’s soul is priceless, and nothing can compare to its worth, but how worthless will it be if that life is forever banished from the presence of God with no hope of ever being reconciled (Rev 20:12-15)? The soul’s value cannot be estimated. Jesus’ point is that we can gain all that there is, but lose or forfeit our very soul for this life. If we do that, then we’ve lost everything because you can’t take anything in this life into the next, unless it is done for Christ. Those rewards that are done in His name are going with us to heaven. You can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead and have it waiting there for you. In other words, the good we do for Jesus and for God’s glory will remain. Nothing else really matters.

Take Up Your Cross

If we are to take up our cross as Jesus said, what does that mean? Today’s equivalent would be to take up the electric chair or take up the lethal injection and die to ourselves. We must crucify the flesh in order to please God, Who is Spirit (Gal 5:24). That basically means nailing our desires and passions–that sinful nature of ours–to the cross, slaying our own desires for the desire to serve Christ and others, and doing it with the express purpose of glorifying God (Gal 2:20). If we are walking by the Holy Spirit’s leading, we’ll be putting to death earthly desires and passions (Gal 5:16). It is only those being led by God’s Spirit who are the children of God (Rom 8:14), and to live by the flesh will be dying in the flesh, but the Spirit will put the deeds of the flesh to death (Rom 8:12-13). In this way, your own soul will have infinite value, but if you’re living only in the flesh, you forfeit everything.

A Closing Prayer

Great God in heaven, I am so far short of Your glory (Rom 3:23), and there is nothing good in me (Rom 3:10) except your Spirit. Please help me yield to Your Spirit and to slay the flesh so that I might strive to not gain the whole world and lose my soul, but rather help me deny myself, take up my cross, die to self, and live for you. In Jesus’ name I pray.

 

March 20, 2017

He Wants Us to be With Him in His Glory

Tomorrow, I’m posting a review of a new collection of C. S. Lewis works wherein I noted that  Lewis wrote: “The symbols under which heaven is presented to us are (a) a dinner party, (b) a wedding, (c) a city, and (d) a concert.” Today’s devotional contains the wedding banquet theme presented in many depictions of the end times.

To do so, we pay another return visit to the blog of Gordon Rumford, one of the most faithful devotional writers online. I think the example by which he frames this best illustrates what Jesus is saying in the prayer which forms the key verse. Click the title below to read at source.

Who do you really wish to be with?

“Father,
I want those you have given me to be with me where I am,
and to see my glory.”
John 17:24 (NIV)

 

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I often am enlisted to drive one or another of my grandchildren somewhere. Occasionally it is to church but mostly to or from school. It is a great opportunity to engage them in conversation and learn more about their world and how they see it. I love this time and am thankful that I live close to them in order to be with them so frequently.

Some time ago I drove one of them to a banquet at school. Then, when the time came, I picked her up to drive her home. When my granddaughter got into the car she enthusiastically said that she had won an award and showed me the plaque with her name inscribed and a description of her achievement.

I knew that the banquet was only for the students and staff but I still expressed my disappointment that I could not be there to hear her name called and see her on stage to receive the honour. I was very proud of her and her diligent work to gain such recognition.

It is such a pleasure to see those we love recognized and honoured in front of their peers. To be able to say to others I am related to the person honoured brings such joy to our hearts.

This is what Jesus is getting at in our verse today. He has troubled the disciples by saying He is going away and now He lets them hear His words indicating He wants them with Him where He is going. He adds to that request the reason He wants them with Him.

It is a concern to Jesus that His people see Him in all His glory. Since Jesus humbled Himself by leaving heaven and becoming a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” He now wishes the disciples to see the eternal glory He would re-assume in heaven.

Many of us have invested loved ones in heaven. They have gone ahead to be with Jesus and we wish to be reunited with them. This is indeed a good thing to wish for in our lives. It will be a grand reunion and there will be so much to catch up on and share at that time.

However there is a wonder in heaven that goes far, far beyond the reunion with loved ones. It is to see Jesus Who is the centerpiece of heaven. Ultimately it will be Jesus will Who receives the attention and praise. Anna Cousins… puts it like this:

The Bride eyes not her garment, but her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory but on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth but on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land.

Who do you really wish to be with? Jesus indicates that those whom the Father has given Him are those who will be with Him. Have you decided that Jesus is the One you really wish to be with? He invites you to come to Him and be one of His chosen people for all eternity. Will you come?


Further reading: As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of the earlier words of Jesus in John 14, “I go to prepare a place for you… I will come again and receive you unto myself.” (Yes, I know, KJV is how I memorized it as a child!) As it turns out, just a few days prior, Gordon Rumford wrote another devotional based on a verse in that same passage.

May 1, 2015

Keeping the Passion for Prayer

Today we pay a return visit to Pastor Jesus Figueroa, who was born in Tijuana, Mexico and today pastors a 700 member church in Los Angeles. He begins with a variety of translations, then some devotional thoughts, and then related verses. Each day’s writings are posted in both English and Spanish. I strongly encourage you to read this at his blog, Word for Today, and then take some time to look at other articles. Click the title below to read:

Watch With Me One Hour

Topic: We Must  Not Lose Passion In Prayer

40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?

Matthew 26:40 (NKJV)

Daily Reading Plan

1 Chronicles 1

Bible Versions:

Matthew 26:40 (NIV) — 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.

Matthew 26:40 (MSG) — 40 When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour?

Thoughts Of Devotion:

Scripture teaches us that it is possible to one lose our passion for prayer. You can get to a place in your spiritual life where you no longer desire to be in communion with the Lord. In this occasion we see how Jesus’ disciples were at a point in their lives where they allowed sleep to steal their prayer time. Jesus had to exhort them. Read what Matthew 26:41 says, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The burning desire in prayer is so important and essential if we are to achieve an intimate communion with the Lord. It’s a very sad situation when sometimes our flesh is weak and we lose the privilege of prayer. Although our spirit is always ready, the battle with our flesh will always be present. It reminds me of what Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” I wonder, in how many occasions have we allowed our flesh to steal the blessing of prayer through sleep, distractions, and many other things that continually wish to rid us of our spiritual blessings?

It is only when we remain alert and vigilant in prayer that we will see the glory of God! In Luke 9:32, it tells us of another occasion in which they “DID” remain awake, ” But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.” Today the Lord wants us to enjoy His glory, great victories over the temptations that come into our lives, but for this to happen we have to be fervent in our spirit and not let our weak flesh win. Blessings!

Foundational Scriptures:

Matthew 25:5 (NKJV) — But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

Luke 9:32 (NKJV) — 32 But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.

John 6:63 (NKJV) — 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

John 6:63 (NKJV) — 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

Galatians 5:17 (NKJV) — 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Psalm 103:14 (NKJV) — 14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

August 5, 2014

“Lord, to whom can we go?”

I discovered this article over a week ago, and hesitated using it here because I would have to reformat it. But I kept returning to it and decided to just go for it. The blog is named Redbird’s Roost and the author also links to a large number of faith-focused blogs by women. To read this at source, click on the title below:

Is Jesus Your Kind Of Christ?

“As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69 (NASB)

Some persons have a fixed notion of what the Messiah, the Christ, ought to be. He has to conform to that idea or they will not have Him. The five thousand whom Jesus fed expected a Christ who would deliver them physically from the humiliation of political bondage to Rome. Some of Jesus’ works had led them to believe that He could gain that freedom for them. A new Moses, He could feed them with bread from heaven and do other marvelous things for them. If Jesus would be that kind of Christ, they would gladly have Him.

But we read that “many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” How did that come about? Jesus simply refused to be their kind of Christ. He offered Himself to them as “the bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:14). He said other things that were strange to their ways of thinking, and it was all too much for them to take.

Have we set the terms on which we will have Jesus? Have we said to ourselves, “If Jesus does thus and so for me, I’ll follow Him”? Often what we do today is not to reject Jesus outright, but to distort His mission and message so as to get rid of Him less painfully. Perhaps we gladly accept the idea of His Saviorhood and reject His Lordship over all of life, or we gladly accept the idea of His demanding Lordship and ignore His gracious Saviorhood. Or we may do other things that minimize His real mission.

Most of us who have met Jesus would be reluctant to give Him up. He has an eternal fascination. But we may be confused and frustrated as to who and what He is and what He expects of us. Among the five thousand who heard Jesus and were fed by Him were many who forsook Him temporarily and later came back to Him to be faithful disciples. A loud minority can work havoc among a confused majority or can confuse a majority and take advantage of it. Looking for leadership, the majority often takes the ideas of a vocal minority too seriously. Suppose a few leaders had openly accepted Jesus’ teaching. Would most of the people gone along with them? We don’t know, of course. But it is quite likely. Years ago, a famous preacher presented a sermon on the theme, “The Hope of the World (Is) in Its Minorities.” But ignorant, prejudiced, selfish minorities can cause great mischief–as can majorities when confused in value judgments.

Who stirred up the crowd that wanted to make Jesus King? Who cause the confusion? Could it have been Jesus’ own disciples? They were slow to understand His teaching and His plans. Mark tells us that Jesus made His disciples go to the other side of the lake. Was it because the disciples themselves had added to the popular misunderstanding about the Messiah and about Jesus in particular? It is certainly true that sometimes Jesus’ truest friends make it difficult for others to believe in Him and take Him for what He actually is. Some potential disciples, therefore, have to wait for the air to clear a bit before they are ready to commit themselves to Jesus.

It must have been appalling when many went away from Jesus disappointed. Doubtless Jesus felt the pain of it and the disciples shared Jesus’ pain. Was this the way to win a world to God?

The disciples could have parted company with Jesus then. The situation was right. They were free. “You do not want to go away also, do you” Jesus asked.

Jesus does not force us to follow Him or to continue to follow Him. The best religion is free, spontaneous response to the promise and challenge of God’s love. The community has to compel its citizens to conform to certain forms of behavior. It does this through laws, courts, and certain judgments. However, every true Christian is a Christian by his own choice. God has given us the freedom to walk out–anytime. But Simon Peter replied to Jesus’ question, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

As far as the disciples were concerned, all escape routes were closed. The disciple, of course, could walk away from Jesus physically; they could join the departing crowd physically. Nothing could prevent that. But psychologically and spiritually they could not leave. They were too closely bound to Him by love and conviction to ever leave Him. Staying with Jesus was their hearts’ deepest desire. In Him they had discovered the depths of reality; eternal life, the experience of God.

How can we explain it when a man stands with a minority–or even alone–on some vital issue? Or doggedly goes on believing in God when others around him are losing their faith one by one? Or faces crushing tragedy without giving up? The answer is very simple: Jesus Christ has given them something–an illuminating experience of God–that brings meaning to life. Because of what Jesus has done, there is something to live for, and even die for. Simon Peter would no doubt have a hard time explaining all his reasons for continuing with Jesus, but he put his finger on the basic, the most important reason: none can measure up to Jesus Christ in answering our deepest needs, especially our need for God.


Is there a subject you’d like to see covered here? A scripture verse you’d like addressed? Another devotional blog you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment any time in the current post or better still go to this page.

January 25, 2014

The Public Speech and the Private Speech

When I was much younger, I was taught that on some issues, Christian leaders have a public position and a private position. I’ve seen this play out many times, but while I appreciate that sometimes you don’t want to get too deep into issues with people who aren’t matured enough spiritually to absorb all the nuances of those issues, there is a danger of hypocrisy if your public and private position can be conceived of as being opposites.

Anyway, I’m not sure how we got into all that, but today, I want to think about the words Jesus shared as part of his public ministry and the words shared strictly to his disciples. By this I mean The Twelve — as compared to the disciples in general which may have involved about 70 regulars, or the great multitude we only have quantified as 5,000 men who attended his gatherings elsewhere.

In the small group we were part of last fall, we looked at what is usually termed The Sermon on the Mount, which is found in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. But Jesus seems to have other things reserved for the disciples in Matthew 10.  Anything that’s scripture here at C201 usually appears in green, but today we’ll revert to the more common custom of having the words of Jesus in red.

5…“Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[b] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[c]

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Some quick notes:

Verse 5/6 is not a universal prescription; inclusion in Jesus’ ministry will widen in the New Testament arc, just as it does in the Old Testament arc.

Verses 9 – 15 contain what is often called “The Person of Peace Principle.” You can read more about this in reference to church planting or in terms of starting any kind of ministry.

Verses 16 – 20 offer these disciples a promise that if they don’t know what to say God will give them words. (I often think of the phrase in Psalm 81, “Open your mouth and I will fill it;” though the context there is quite different!) What’s interesting here is that God promises the Holy Spirit will supply them the words, but at this point the Holy Spirit just rested on people. How much more the disciples would be able to speak with boldness when they were filled with the Spirit in Acts 2.

The remainder of the chapter begins what some call “the hard sayings of Jesus,” though being sent out without a change of clothes or money to buy food doesn’t sound like a cakewalk, either. I’ve heard stories about missions trips where pairs of people — often young people — are dropped off in a town in a foreign country with minimal money for a 24 hour period.  I’m not sure how I feel about this particular discipleship tactic, but two things strike me immediately. First, you would tend to look for that person of peace, and secondly you would tend to need the Holy Spirit’s help in a fresh way.

I’m sure some of Jesus’ disciples were equally nervous as they went out on their way.

Matthew Henry says, “This chapter is an ordination sermon, which our Lord Jesus preached, when he advanced his twelve disciples to the degree and dignity of apostles.” In succeeding chapters we hear these disciples report back successes, but also challenges they faced.


Note: A seemingly parallel section to today’s reading is found in Luke 10, but there it is directed to the seventy-two, not the twelve.

October 19, 2013

Why Did Jesus…? Part Two

Tody we continue where left off yesterday. There are no specific scriptures for this one, you’ll need to refer back to the verses posted here the day before.  Louisiana pastor Waylon Bailey has treated this subject well at the article titled Why Did Jesus Tell His Followers Not To Tell About Him?

We all know and understand that Jesus told His disciples to go into all the world, making disciples, baptizing, and teaching. That part makes sense. Everyone needs to know Christ. We all also understand that we have been given the responsibility to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

That makes the question even more difficult to comprehend. What did Jesus mean when he repeatedly told the people around him not to tell anyone what they had seen and heard? And, why did He tell them this? Mark 1:40-45 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. It shows Jesus as He truly is. Having encountered a man with leprosy, Jesus had great compassion on the man. His heart went out to Him. Jesus healed the man of his leprosy. After the healing Jesus “sternly warned” the man to tell no one. He simply was to go to the priest as prescribed by the law of Moses. Instead, the man told everyone what had happened. This story is fairly representative of all those who were told to tell no one.

Why did Jesus tell him not to tell anyone?

The issue primarily seems to be one of timing and proximity.

After the resurrection, Jesus repeatedly and consistently told His disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Each of the Gospels has its own commission to take the message to the world. We commonly call this the Great Commission.

It was in the time before the resurrection that Jesus counseled His disciples and others not to publish widely what they had seen and heard.

Why was this the case?

First, Jesus did not want people to only associate Him with the miraculous. He was the bringer of good tidings not simply a miracle worker.

Second, Jesus did not want people to make Him an earthly king. We know that many Jews looked for the kind of Messiah who could overthrow Rome. It would be an easy step for all of the people to miss the significance of what Jesus came to do. As long as Jesus turned water into wine and a few loaves and fish into abundance, the people wanted to follow Him.

Third, Jesus wanted the freedom to move about Israel unhindered. When the man cleansed of his leprosy disobeyed Jesus and began to publish the matter “Jesus could not enter any town openly but stayed outside in lonely places” (Mark 1:45). Many other towns were deprived of the Lord’s presence. Jesus had not wanted that to happen.

Interestingly, Jesus told those outside Israel to proclaim the message. The fifth chapter of Mark is quite interesting. Jesus healed the demoniac from the Decapolis (largely Gentile area). He told him to go back home and tell what the Lord had done for him (Mark 5:19). In the same chapter he healed the daughter of the leader of the Synagogue and told them to tell no one (Mark 5:43). It was a matter of proximity. Inside Israel, the messianic fervor might lead to a premature confrontation with Rome or the Jewish leaders. Jesus “hour” had not yet come.

We live in this wonderful new age when all must hear the message of Good News.

Considering this subject for the past two days has reminded me of this quotation from Walter Wink that Philip Yancey uses:

“The more I studied Jesus, the more difficult it became to pigeonhole him. He said little about the Roman occupation, the main topic of conversation among his countrymen; and yet he took up a whip to drive petty profiteers from the Jewish temple. He urged obedience to the Mosaic law while acquiring the reputation of a lawbreaker. He could be stabbed by sympathy for a stranger, yet turn on his best friend with the flinty rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan!” He had compromising views on rich men and loose women, yet both types enjoyed his company.

“One day miracles seem to flow out of Jesus the next day his power was blocked by people’s lack of faith. One day he talked in detail of the Second Coming; another, he knew neither the day nor hour. He fled from arrest at one point and marched inexorably toward it at another. He spoke eloquently about peacemaking, then told his disciples to procure swords. His extravagant claims about himself kept him at the center of controversy, but when he he did something truly miraculous he tended to hush it up. As Walter Wink has said, if Jesus had never lived, we would not have been able to invent him.” 

~ Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan 1995) p.23

October 18, 2013

Why Did Jesus Sometimes Ask Miracle Witnesses to Tell No One?

Jesus - Don't tell anyone

Doug Wolter posted this several months ago as Why did Jesus say, “Don’t tell others?”:

Yesterday I preached on four incredible stories from Mark 4:35-5:43 where Jesus calms the storm, heals the demoniac and the hemorrhaging woman, and raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead.  Afterwards, a member of my church asked me a great question: Why did Jesus tell the demon possessed man to go and tell others but told the ones who saw Jairus’ daughter being raised to strictly tell no one?  What a great question!  Here’s my response:

The demon-possessed man was in a Gentile region where not many knew about Jesus or cared about the coming Messiah. In Mark 5:17, after Jesus had healed the man, they begged him to leave the area.  Jesus left, but told the demoniac to go and tell what had happened to him since he would now be the only real witness in this region (Mark 5:19).

Now Jairus and his daughter lived in Galilee. This region would’ve been Jewish and therefore anticipating a coming Messiah and so Jesus wanted to keep this a secret because he didn’t want to stir up a big crowd.  The concern on Jesus’ part was that people’s attention would be distracted from what he really came to do, namely, the ministry of the word (Mark 1:38).  His essential aim was to preach repentance and faith (the message of the kingdom) and then die on a cross. After he died and rose again, that’s when he told his disciples to go and tell everyone who he was because that was the real message he came to bring as the Messiah.

Of course there are many of these passages:

Healing of Many:

Matthew 12:15 …A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him.

Peter’s Confession of Christ’s Lordship and Divinity:

Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

(also found in Mark 8 and Luke 9)

Returning from the Mountain of the Transfiguration:

Mark 9:2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus….

…8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

Casting Out Demons:

Mark 3:11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.

The Healing of a Deaf Man:

Mark 7:35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The Healing of Jarius’ Daughter:

Luke 8:51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother… 

…54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Are Jesus’ reasons the same in each case, or do you think that there were different motivations for asking people not to tell what they had seen?

Jesus - Don't tell anyone 2

June 3, 2013

Speaking with Boldness and Power

This is combination of two devotional posts by George Whitten, editor of Worthy Devotions, another Alltop – Christianity indexed website.  As we mentioned when we featured his blog here a year ago, one of the key features at Worthy is the topical index which allows you delve into any one of a wide variety of subjects. These two posts — one from February and one from May — have their roots in Acts 4.  The original title and link to each appears at the start of each article.

You have Resurrection Power!

Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Just a few weeks prior to this incident, the disciples were trembling for their lives as their Lord was arrested and then crucified. They had all fled in the Garden of Gethsemane and then Peter, whose boldness was legendary, had denied him three times. The fact that they had been serving with Yeshua (Jesus) for three years, witnessing many miracles, including Peter’s amazing walk on the water, apparently did not inspire the necessary courage to watch for an hour or to stick with Him to the end. Perhaps the miraculous had become a bit commonplace for them, so that when the threat to Yeshua came full force, they floundered and failed miserably.

What happened that changed their state of being so dramatically in this encounter with the Jewish leaders? I believe it was two things: one, that they had seen their Lord resurrected from the dead, and two, that they were now filled with that resurrection life and power themselves, by the Holy Spirit. The power of the resurrection was within and upon them! The reality and security of God’s indwelling Presence and power, and His words “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do”, inspired a boldness far beyond any merely human courage.

This boldness amazed the Sadducees and Pharisees who despised Peter and John as “unlearned and ignorant”men. They marveled at the unabashed fearlessness of the apostles whose knowledge was of a different and superior kind: the knowledge of their RISEN and RESURRECTED Lord. And then they noted, that these men had been with Yeshua (Jesus)!

This power is yours, and it is mine, if we continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit, not quenching or grieving Him. We, too, will confound and amaze the “authorities” of our day with the holy boldness of resurrection life, and though they may despise our humble circumstances, they also will take note that, “we have been with Jesus”.

part two:

React with Boldness!

Psalms 2:1-3 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed [in Hebrew it is the word Meshiach], saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

Acts 4:25-28 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

When Peter and John had gone up to the Temple for prayer [Acts 3], they saw a man who was lame from birth, and were moved to heal him in the name of Yeshua (Jesus). Immediately the religious leaders laid hands on them [Acts 4:3] and kept them imprisoned for a day. The following day, with boldness, they declared this miracle was done in the name of Yeshua. I love what the “religious” leaders said next — “they perceived that they were unlearned men and they marveled at their boldness!” Why were they bold? They had been with Yeshua, and the leaders took note of that!

It is no surprise that the world rages against the Messiah. Psalm 2 declares it clearly. Every year there are tens of thousands of believers suffering and dying for their faith, in large part because the kings and the rulers of the earth RAGE against the Lord and His Anointed. As followers of the King we should expect this and be prepared for it when it comes.

But, the examples of Peter and John, and every other true Christian martyr, are there to inspire and encourage us that if and when the time of persecution comes for us, we too can be bold as a lion. And this boldness is no merely human bravery, but an unction from the Holy Spirit Himself. So, though the kings of the earth will rage, our simple faith and Holy Spirit boldness will testify that we too have been with Yeshua!

 

April 28, 2012

A Veteran Pastor Shares Biblical Insights

Lots of scripture today!  I thought it would be fitting to share some excerpts from the blog Murray’s Musings. Murray and his wife Nancy are friends of our family, and for the past few weeks Murray has been excerpting some notes that his father-in-law, Rev. Morley G. Clarke, wrote to share with his men’s group.  On learning today that Morley had passed away yesterday,  I thought I would include seven samples of the 21 “Moments With Morley” here at C201; you may choose to read one, several or all.

Murray’s introduction:

It amazes me (but it really shouldn’t) to realize that as Dad was writing these thoughts as he was battling the last stages of cancer and during the early stages a year earlier had lost a daughter to suicide as a result of a chemical depression.  Morley truly knows of suffering, but he also knows of the comfort that only faith in Jesus Christ can bring to the situation.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Morley’s Comments

The first verse put suffering it its proper context.  God does not provide a way around suffering but does give His faithful promise to provide His sustaining presence as we walk through it together.


Acts 3:1-10

 1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Morley’s Comment

This is the day that Peter realized that his Lord had bestowed upon him the spiritual gift of healing but he was sufficiently wise and humble enough to disclaim all credit for the miracle.  He made it clear that Jesus, working through him, was the one who had performed the loving miracle.

Someone has said that a person can truly do a lot of good if they are unconcerned with who gets the credit.


Acts 2:1-4

 1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

Morley’s Comments

Here is the fantastic fulfillment of the promise given by the living Christ in Luke 24.  During those wonderful three years Jesus walked beside his disciples.  Now He will walk within them.  They will be filled with His Holy Spirit.  That took place on the Day of Pentecost when the Lord poured the Holy Spirit into the hearts of His 129 followers, and the church and the Body of Christ was born with great rejoicing.


Ephesians 3:14-21

 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Morley’s Comments

As I see it, this is the finest prayer in the Bible, although it might well be argued that the Lord’s Prayer in John 17 has equal claim.

The amazing description of praise in verses 14 to 21 is one of the most beautiful and inspiring that I have ever encountered.


Rev 3:20

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Morley’s Comments

Jesus never forces himself upon us, but He does make His presence known, pleading with humanity to open their hearts that they might come in, hearing such blessings as joy, hope and peace.

This door opens from the inside!


John 1:29-34

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

Morley’s Comments

This is John’s record of Jesus’ double baptism.  First, how he was baptized by John with water and secondly, how he was baptized by His Father with the Holy Spirit and with power.  From there he went forth on His mission of preaching, teaching and healing, enabled by the Holy Spirit of God – to enable us to fulfill our mission, to put into action our ministry of using our spiritual gifts.

We too, need that in filling available and it is available to us.  Indeed, Paul issues a command.  “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” on the day of Pentecost as described by Luke in Acts 2:1-4.  The church should celebrate Pentecost with no less fervor than we do Christmas and Easter.


Paul’s note:

Murray posted this as a final “Moment” over two weeks ago. It seems so fitting to be reading this today…

Revelation 22:1-5

1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Morley’s Comments

What a beautiful image, filled with a portrayal of Heaven.  When a minister stands at the grave of a Christian, how wonderful it is that he has a sure word from God, a word of comfort, a word of hope!

Thanks be to God!!!


Read the entire series of Moments With Morley – click here.

April 13, 2012

Potpourri

Sometimes you are in a place where no worship song, no Christian book, no preacher or not even a close friend or relative can help you. Aren’t you glad that there is a ‘very present help in time of need?’. There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother! His name is Jesus! His presence is the most satisfying thing on earth! One moment with Him can change your life forever!

Matthew Murray
(www.shakethenations.com)

via Living4Christ


I’m struck again by the strangeness of the ending of Mark’s gospel. No angels. No visitations. No Emmaus. No breakfast. Just silence .

And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid
Mark 16: 8

Jesus is alive – the best news ever! But Mark gives us no account of the risen Jesus, just the fear and silence of his followers. I know that there are alternative endings to Mark – at least two of them. But I’m certain that Mark intended to end in this strange way. And I’m glad he did – it’s a great comfort to me.

Though Jesus followers fail him even at the resurrection, still the gospel goes on. Despite the silence of those followers, the message gets out. Jesus is alive!

We sometimes talk as though the ’success’ of the gospel depends on us. If only we would follow this program, use that prayer scheme, read the Bible in such a way, worship in a particular style – then God would bless us and all would be well. But the message of Mark is that at best the followers of Jesus are only ever playing ‘catch up’ with him. If a tomb could not contain him, then the failure of his followers will not constrain him either.

I find that curiously reassuring.

Richard Hall at Connexions


This past Sunday morning – I received a text from a friend that included five of the most powerful and encouraging words ever.  The text said: “Praying for you this morning.”

I cannot tell you how that lifted my spirits and encouraged me to preach with even greater passion.  I know that many people are praying for me weekly, but this text was so encouraging because there’s nothing I need more than your prayer.

In fact, if you want your Pastor to study well, to prepare well and to preach well – you need to pray well for your Pastor.

~B. J. Rutledge, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Paradise, Texas


“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9).

In the genius of the blessed Trinity, our cruel rejection of Jesus became the way of our adoption; our bitter abuse became the way of the Father’s embrace and the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. For how could our unfaithfulness and contempt and treachery, or the enslaving lie of the evil one, or death itself break the love and oneness and life of the blessed Trinity?  In dying at our hands, Jesus brought his life into our death, his relationship with his Father into our gnarled pathology, his anointing by the Holy Spirit into our twisted darkness. Out of his boundless love “he was dishonored that he might glorify us,” (Gregory Nazianzen, Orations, I.5.) “he endured our insolence that we might inherit immortality”(Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, §54). Suffering our abuse to give us grace, he met our cruelty with his kindness, our rejection with his merciful acceptance, and our dead and despairing religion with his joy.  By accepting us at our very worst, by submitting himself to us in our great darkness, he entered into our world with his, thus transforming the shack of Adam’s horrid fall into the house of his Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit.

In a variation on St. Paul’s great statement we might say, “For you know the stunning grace of the Father’s Son: that though he was rich in the shared life of the blessed Trinity, yet for our sake he became poor, suffering our wrath to meet us, and that now through his suffering we who were so poor have been included in Jesus’ own rich relationship with his Father in the Spirit.”

~Baxter Kruger, The House of His Father

Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of the Christian blogosphere.  An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives.  The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

October 13, 2011

The Last 14 Hours of Christ’s Earthly Mission

Structured somewhat like an episode of the television series 24, Dawson McAllister’s 2009 book A Walk With Christ to the Cross: The Last Fourteen Hours of His Earthly Mission, is probably one of the more explicit books I’ve seen in terms of Christ’s suffering.

I picked up this book and not-so-randomly jumped to chapter three, which deals with Jesus in Gethsemane.  I’ve read some rather detailed descriptions of Christ’s crucifixion — I think Chuck Swindoll has a book that is exceptionally clear on this — but considering that I was reading a chapter consisting of 90-minute window before Jesus was even arrested, nothing at all prepared me for what I read. 

The chapter is based on a combination — or harmonization — of all the gospel accounts.  I’d hoped to find some text from the book online, but since that wasn’t an option, and since it’s hard to excerpt bits of this chapter without missing the impact of the whole, I’ll just note a few things in bullet points:

  • His friends didn’t understand His pain
  • …and they were soon to abandon Him.
  • The severity of what He was about to face could mean that physically, He was going in to shock.
  • Jesus began to be sorrowful; emotions absolutely shot.
  • Jesus became deeply distressed; He began to shudder; some believe this was to the point of a mild heart attack.
  • He pressed His face to the ground and prayed, basically, “Abba Father! Is there another way?”
  • He asked himself: Could He do it? Was it right to take all our sin on Him at once? Could he bear the utter hell of being forsaken by The Father?  Was humankind worth the suffering?
  • Nonetheless, He had to make a yes or no decision. 
  • He sweat drops of blood: Hematidrosis is the technical name for this condition; blood passing through the veins into the sweat glands.
  • He would want to do The Father’s will, but His whole system would be shouting, “NO!”
  • All these things considered, He might have died right there, but The Father sent an angel to comfort him; in some way the angel ministered to Jesus; the almighty creator of everything being comforted by a created being.

[…I have no words at this point…]

What we learn from Jesus’ time in the garden:

  • Humility.  If we’d walked by that garden and looked over the wall, we wouldn’t have said, “Oh, I get it…God in human form!  That must be God in the flesh.”  …Our first reaction would have been, “Who is this peasant Jew having a nervous breakdown?”
  • Sin is no small thing to Jesus.  What troubled Him deeply even to the point of death?  What was it He saw in the garden?  Answer: He saw sin in all its fury. 
  • Jesus considered us worth the suffering.  Hebrews 12:2 “…Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.”

Items in all bullet points are edited quotations from the book.

April 21, 2011

Famous Last Words…

The eleven men who were left were very quiet.  The voice of Christ was very soft and low — tender with farewell.

It was now only a matter of hours until Christ and his disciples would be separated.  He wished to fill those last hours of fellowship with the tenderest and most significant of His teachings.

The most sacred… the most tender… the most heart-felt emotions… are those expressed at the end of the letter…

The tenderest caress comes just before the parting.  The softest word just before the conversation is ended… before the train pulls out… before we turn away.

We seem to catch the quiet intimacy of that fellowship.  Unforgettable words of parting and comfort were spoken by Jesus to His friends.  Jesus has written them out for us:

  • “Little children … a new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you … By this will all know that you are my disciples…”
  • “Let not your heart be troubled; … In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you…”
  • “I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you…”
  • “I am the vine, you are the branches…  Abide in me, and I in you…”
  • “these things I have spoken unto you that in me you might have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world…”

Overcome the world?  When the one who spoke was so soon to fall under the power of Caesar?  Yes, for in reality we must remember that Jesus could have escaped the cross.  No one compelled him to go to Jerusalem on that last journey.  Indeed His friends and apostles urged Him not to go.

Watch Him, in the bitter hours that lie immediately ahead, time after time taking the initiative in deciding His own fate.

Christ had begun His ministry by telling His apostles that the Son of many must suffer many things.  Must — there was no other way.  It was for that purpose that He had come into the world.

“For as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up .. that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

There was Light in the little room that night.  But beyond the light lay a death-ridden world…

  • in the midst of the military might that was Rome where life was cheap
  • in the philosopher’s porticoes of Athens where the mind found no hope
  • in the dangerous living of the great shipping centers of Asia Minor to the disease infested alleys of old Jerusalem —

Men feared death, dodged its hideous grasp, could nowhere find respite from their fear.

But here was something new… Here was one facing death — not afraid but confident … already triumphant … already speaking about seeing His friends again … about never leaving them…

Strange words … about being with them to the uttermost parts of the earth and to the end of time.

How?  Why? Because He alone knew the Father’s eternal purpose for what it was — the determination once and for all to destroy the power of death — once and for all to deliver men from their lifelong bondage to the fear of death.

Within a matter of hours, Christ Himself was to become the instrument by which the Father would — for all time — make death not a wall … but a door.

~ Peter Marshall –The First Easter (McGraw-Hill, 1959) pp. 16-19

February 23, 2011

The Provision of Rest

Albert writes his blog, God Is My Constant, from his home in Sydney, Australia. This appeared under the title Holy Nanna Nap.

In Mark 6:30 Jesus invites his followers to enjoy a time of rest and leisure. In the midst of struggle, persecution and distress – Jesus is our safe haven – the cleft of the rock into which we taken by God and are kept safe.

Rest is a common grace from God to everyone – it is a demonstration of God’s compassion and kindness. As rebels we are not deserving of rest, it is his grace that allows us opportunities to stop, rest, recuperate and give thanks for his provisions.

Public Worship with other people is a type of “rest” – we are refreshed by drawing near to God through Christ, hearing his word and encouraging each other.

The famous miracle of the ‘feeding of five thousand‘ provides a strong allusion and comparison here between the bread the men ate & the miraculous manna Israel ate in the wilderness.

Knowles in ‘The Bible Guide’ notes that:

As Jesus directs the crowd to sit down in groups of hundreds and fifties, some would think of the prophet Elisha. He fed 100 men from just twenty barley loaves (2 Kings 4:42–44). Others, seeing 5,000 men sitting in ordered ranks (like an army), would remember how God fed Israel in the desert with manna and quail (Exodus 16; Numbers 11). For Christians, the way Jesus takes the bread, thanks God, breaks and shares it, is an anticipation of Holy Communion. The twelve baskets of scraps seem like a promise of enough for all future generations.

Just as they didn’t run out of bread and fish, God’s compassion and love is inexhaustible. There is no end to the “steadfast love of the LORD”, “his mercies never come to an end” (Lamentations 3:22).

In some cultures being overworked is taken as a virtue. Here it is an indication of pride and idolatry. Rest and Provision is God’s gift of compassion. Don’t miss the opportunity to receive this from God. The ultimate rest awaits those who know and trust in Jesus. Every small rest, every ‘nanna nap‘, we have now is an anticipation of that final rest.