Archive for March, 2015

29
Mar
15

IMAGES

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the a foal of a donkey.” – Zechariah 9:9

Most scholars will agree that this portion of scripture was written sometime around 415 B.C.  It is remarkable that this prophecy was satisfied in every way and that every word was fulfilled in whole.  Such is the truth of all the Old Testament prophecies that Jesus Christ fulfilled during His lifetime.

On Palm Sunday over 2,000 years ago, Jesus told His disciples that He needed to borrow the services of a donkey that had never been ridden, and they did so (Mark 11:2-4).  The reason He needed a donkey which had never been ridden was to show His regality and His kingship, as it was a custom in that day.  But riding in Jerusalem on a donkey also showed His humility.

As He made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on that Sunday so long ago, He was given “the red carpet treatment” as people laid down palm branches and their coats along the way.  But there was something wrong with what they said that day.  “Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of The Lord;  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!'” (Mark 11:9-10).  Notice that they are praising the coming kingdom of David.

David was a good king of Israel, and who was a man after God’s own heart.  During his reign, he caused Israel to grow in strength politically through war and conquering.  But Jesus coming wasn’t to conquer the world politically, but to conquer the world spiritually.  After all, He came to “seek and save that which is lost” (Matthew 18:11).

What images do we have of Jesus today?  Do we see Him merely as a forgiver of sins, if we flippantly ask forgiveness, but have no intention of repentance?  Do we see Him as a big Sugar Daddy who will give us whatever we want if we use that magical little spell “in Jesus name” when we pray?  Perhaps we see Him as one of many paths to God.

The truth of the matter is that Jesus is not who we say He is, like the people of Jerusalem tried to do, but He is who He says He is.  He is the Christ, the son of the living God.  He is the King of Kings, and The Lord of Lords.  He is the Alpha and Omega;  He is the way, the truth, and the life;  He is the Good Shepherd.  And He is coming again.

Let us make sure that our images and thoughts of Jesus are in line with those of the Holy Bible.  And let us live like He is coming again.

25
Mar
15

GRACE BETWEEN THE LINES

“He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” – I Corinthians 15:4-5

It is amazing the fresh, new things which one can discover when reading and studying the Scripture!

When Jesus was crucified, the disciples and others who closely followed His ministry must have felt like they had been kicked in the gut.  This man who had made the lame to walk, made the blind to see and raised the dead while teaching that He was the promised Kingdom of God was gone.  The one who had instructed the disciples in how to cast out demons and met them in the middle of the sea walking on the water was dead and buried.  They must have felt alone, distraught, and without a sense of what they were to do now.

On the morning of the third day, Mary Magdalene was accompanied by some other ladies to complete the embalming of Jesus, when they discovered the empty tomb.  Later, after alerting the disciples, Mary Magdalene was visited by Jesus alone (John 20:11-18).  After this, He appeared to the other Mary, Salome, Joanna and others as they were coming back to the sepulchre (Matthew 28:1-10).

His next appearance is to a sole, lone man.  We don’t know much about this appearance at all, just that it happened (John 24:34, I Corinthians 15:5).  This appearance was to Simon Peter.  He had been a disciple who had made great strides in growth, as it was he who declared that Jesus was the Christ (Matthew 16:16) and had walked on water (Matthew 14:29).  But this was also the brash Peter who cut off the ear of a soldier (John 18:10).  And let us not forget that after promising Jesus that he would never deny the Messiah, Peter did the exact opposite (John 18:15-27).

It is difficult to imagine the despair that Peter must have felt, watching Jesus suffer to His death in such a way.  Now, compound that emotional turmoil by imagining how distraught he had become since his denial of The Lord.  While all the disciples were in the middle of a spiritual and emotional storm, that storm must have been multiplied many times for Peter.  Undoubtedly, Peter was not only in a spiritual and emotional storm, but he must have been in mental anguish, as well.

When one reads the scripture above, it was be easy to gloss over it and not pay attention to the private meeting Jesus made a point to have with Peter, who He met before appearing to the twelve.  We have no other knowledge of that meeting, but isn’t it sweet to speculate as to what was said?  There undeniably had to be a sense of grace, mercy, forgiveness and love expressed by The Lord, and utter gratitude on the part of Peter.  It would be very easy to read the grace between the lines.

By reading the scripture in an amazing new light, it is here that one can read between the lines, and see grace.  Thanks to God for His undying grace!

24
Mar
15

TWO DESTINIES

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” – John 15:1-2

There was a story years ago of an orange farm in Florida that had a blight that affected a portion of their fruit trees.  They tried to rescue the trees and make them healthy to grow fruit.  The growers were eventually forced to cut their losses and take the trees down to be destroyed.  Newer trees were planted that would be able to produce fruit and profit for the growers in the future.

In this, the last of Jesus seven “I am” statements in John, Jesus teaches that He is the true vine.  As such, His roots are deep to draw in the nourishing water to supply to the branches.  The branches are supported by the vine in order to produce fruit for the grower, identified as the vinedresser, the Father.

One of two futures awaits those who are His children.  Born-again believers should be active in their spiritual walk by sharing the gospel, according to the Great Commission.  Those who follow this command not only fulfill their purpose, but can expect to be pruned, so that they can be even more productive.  Pruning involves cutting off extra growth so that fresh, new, healthy growth can produce more fruit.  It may be painful for a moment, but the results are spectacular in the long run.

There is a very different path that a Christian can follow.  They can be lazy, apathetic, or just caught in a funk where they seem to not care.  These people do not produce fruit.  James made the statement that a “faith without works is dead.”  A dead branch will not produce fruit, and the branches that do not produce fruit are in danger of being removed so that new branches can replace them that will produce fruit.

As Christians, we must take a personal inventory of our intentions and actions to make sure that we are in the business of producing fruit and not being lazy, apathetic, unfruitful branches.

23
Mar
15

HE IS ALL

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'” – John 14:6

Jesus make three distinctly bold claims in this verse.  He claims to be the way, the truth and the life.  Take notice that He did not say “a” way, “a” truth, or “a” life.  That would imply that there are other roads that lead to God.  But the Messiah unapologetically states that He is the only way that one can come into communion with God.  This is consistent with all seven of the “I am” statements that Jesus made in the book of John.

Thomas had just asked Jesus how the disciples would know the way.  Jesus replied that He is the only way in that His path is the only one that leads to salvation.  Matthew 7:14 tells us that the small gate and narrow way are the only ones that lead to salvation.  Not only is He the only way to salvation, but He is also the one mediator between man and God (I Timothy 2:5).  He also told the people that they believe in God, then they must also believe in HIm (John 14:1).  And without the shedding of the blood of the Messiah, we can have no forgiveness for sin (Hebrews 9:22).  Truly, He is the way.

In John 18:38, Pontius Pilate asked a poignant question, “What is truth?”  While Pilate’s question may not have been a genuine question, it is ironic that truth stood right in front of him.  Speaking to Thomas and the disciples here, Jesus preached that He is the truth.  Earlier, Jesus stated to the Jews that they could know the truth and the truth would set them free (John 8:32).  Today, we can know the truth – that the shed blood of Jesus on the cross was shed to liberate all men and women from sin, and make them alive to God.

Jesus had already stated that He was the bread of life, that He was the door through which life could be gained, that He was the resurrection and the life, and that He is the light of life.  Now He proclaims that He is the life.  As He shed his blood as a ransom for many (Ephesians 1:7) and raised from the dead, He proves that He is the life, and that He has the only verifiable way to have eternal life with the Father.

He is truly the way, the truth and the life.

22
Mar
15

AN EMPTY TOMB

Then Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.'” – John 11:25

I am reminded of the story of a boy with Down Syndrome who was slightly looked down upon by his Sunday School classmates.  The Sunday before Easter, their teacher gave them all empty Leggs eggs and had the class search the church grounds for something that would represent Jesus’ resurrection.

When they came back together, they all admired the trinkets that were brought back, such as a leaf, a butterfly, a flower, etc.  When it came time for this little boy to open his egg, it was still empty.  Another boy shouted, “No fair!  He didn’t do it!”  The one with the empty egg answered, “Yes I did.  It’s empty, just like Jesus’ tomb – empty!”

From that day on, no one looked down on that special little boy.

Jesus was on His way to Bethany to mourn Lazarus’ death.  Martha came to meet Jesus before He arrived, lamenting that if Jesus had only been there earlier, then Lazarus would not have died.  Jesus answered that Lazarus would live, to which Martha answered that she knew Lazarus would come back to life on the resurrection day.  Jesus then stated that He is the resurrection and the life.  A few minutes later, Jesus performed His third resurrection on earth (Luke 7:11-15, 8:49-55).

It is interesting to note that Jesus used the present tense “am” instead of the future tense “will be.”  While we have the hope that one day we will bodily rise again, Jesus teaches that we already have new life evidenced by His empty tomb.  The empty tomb brings us such joy, comfort and hope that we can not only look forward to in the future, but we can claim that joy, comfort and hope right now.

Let us rejoice in the power and presence of the empty tomb, both for now and for the future!

22
Mar
15

PROTECTOR AND SAVIOR

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” – John 10:11

December 12, 2012.

This is the date of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that snuffed out the lives of 20 children and six adult staff members.  While there were children who tragically died during this senseless act, many more were saved by the brave, heroic actions of staff members at the school.  All six staff members who died did so while protecting the children.

These children were in grave danger, and the teachers selflessly put the well-being of the children in front of their own.  Sadly, many children died in spite of their efforts, including many of the children who they were attempting to protect.  But a handful of the protected students survived, thanks to the efforts of their dead protectors.

Jesus describes Himself as a shepherd in the scripture above.  But He is not just any shepherd, He is the good shepherd.  He explains that the sheep are in danger of attack at all times.  A hired-hand really doesn’t care about the sheep, and will turn tail to run when danger presents itself.  But the good shepherd does not run, but rather stays to defend and protect the sheep.

The reason Jesus makes the connection of being a shepherd is because He is not only the protector of the sheep, but He is the savior of the sheep.  Wickedness, evil and sin lurk behind the shadows, wishing to do no more than destroy the sheep.  But Jesus faced the wickedness, evil and sin only to be murdered on a cross.  But on the third day, He got the last laugh, as the blood that was shed for the forgiveness of sin once again flowed through His veins to give us eternal life.

Regrettably, many sheep will lose their chance at eternal life and eventually die, but a few will survive, thanks to the selfless efforts of the good shepherd – our protector and savior.

21
Mar
15

ABSOLUTELY RIGHT

“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved…” – John 10:9

When God commanded Noah to build an ark to be saved from the flood, God was sending the flood to blot out the rest of mankind because “every intent of the thoughts of his (man’s) heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).  Along with the command to build the ark were some specific instructions.  The ark was to be roughly 450 feet long, 150 feet wide and 45 feet high with three decks.  It was also to be made from gopher wood, sealed with pitch, and it was to have a window.

There was one other unique feature of the ark; it was to have one door in its side (Genesis 6:16).  It was through this door that the animals were to enter the ark.  It was also through this door that Noah and his family would enter the ark and save their lives from the oncoming flood.  No one could enter the ark, except through the one door.  It was the only way people could save themselves.

Yet a second curiosity about the door is that God, Himself shut the door (Genesis 7:16).  Once He shut the door, no one else could enter.  Once the floodwaters came, many people undoubtedly beat on the door, begging to come in.  One could imagine the screams of terror as people struggled  to preserve their lives.  While they had their chance to heed the warnings of Noah for over 120 years, their time had run out.

While preaching to the masses, first Jesus declared that he was the door.  It is interesting to note that He did not say that He was “a” door, but that He was “the” door.  Later in the book of John, Jesus would proclaim that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  The second note to observe is that He claims to be the only door to salvation.

C.S. Lewis made the comment that one of two things about Jesus is undeniably true;  in making the claim to be the Son of God and the only path to eternal life, Jesus was either insane or absolutely right.  Since Jesus did die, only to come back from the dead (as witnessed by hundreds), He must have been absolutely right.

There are two paths that one can take for eternity.  One path leads to eternal judgment and torment.  The other path leads to eternal comfort and bliss.  The difference is Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for the forgiveness of our sins and rose from the dead so that we could possess eternal life.

Yes, He was absolutely right.




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