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Crucified Before the Foundation of the World

"Crucified before the foundation of the world." What does that mean? How could that even happen? Historians and archaeologists ta...

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

New Series--What Should We Pray For?

Pray for Mercy

I enjoyed writing the Lenten Series. Now I'm starting a new venture. I will base my posts in prayers from the Bible. I'll provide some background and, maybe, insight into the situation and need of the person who is praying. I hope you find something useful. The first day will concern Abraham's prayer for Sodom in Genesis 18:23-24.
23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[a] the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?

Three men visited Abraham when he was resting at the door of his tent during the heat of the day. They were angels or representatives of God and one was the Lord. They had power to call destruction on Sodom and Gomorrah because of sin. They revealed the future to Abraham and he pleaded for mercy for Sodom and Gomorrah possibly because his nephew Lot lived in Sodom. The Bible depicts Sodom and Gomorrah as sinful and wicked. The Lord agreed not to destroy the cities if he found ten righteous people there.

In chapter 19 there are only two visitors and they are called angels. The visitors told Lot to evacuate because destruction was coming; he didn't argue that it wasn't all that bad, but he did beg  them to spend the night in his home because of the violence he feared they would face in the street.

The men of Sodom called out to him to bring them out. But Lot  reasoned with them and offered his daughters in their place. Then they demanded he produce them. The angels reached out and brought Lot in and shut the door.

The angels asked Lot if he had other people in Sodom. "Get out of this place; Destruction is coming." Lot went to the men his daughters were going to marry and warned them, but they thought it was a joke.

At dawn the angels told him again, "Take you wife and your daughters and get out because it's going to happen now." When he hesitated the men took him and his daughters by the hand and brought them out of the city. His wife continued to hesitate, and she was caught in the destruction. The Bible declares she became a pillar of salt.

Abraham went to a familiar place and looked across the plain and saw the smoke rising from Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot and his daughters were safe in Zoar.

Many of the ancient cities are identified and, at least, have ruins to mark their place and size, but sometimes the ancient cities were destroyed in such a way that archaeologists can find no evidence of their existence. Sodom and Gomorrah are such places.

One thought comes to mind out of this story: If you are righteous and live upright before God, you may be included in the census that protects the welfare of your homeland. If you are evil, you may, likewise, be included in the number that will brings the judgment of God on the territory you inhabit. It's something to think about.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter Sunday 2016

Lent is over. This is the day of the Resurrection. Easter is the time for celebration and rejoicing.

Rising again is the mark of victory. Sin has been dispatched. It's hard to believe. Mary Magdalene did not believe it until Jesus spoke her name. Peter and John thought she must be wrong till they went to the tomb.

It was true, but Thomas was a holdout. Then Jesus came to visit with them and eat with them. They were together in a closed and locked room and Thomas was there. Jesus joined them, and said,
"Peace be with you." Then he looked at Thomas and said, "Don't be an unbeliever. See the wounds."
Thomas fell on his knees proclaiming, "My Lord and my God."(John 20:28)
One morning they went fishing very early, and when they came ashore, he had breakfast cooking. They had seen him from the ship, and Peter jumped into the water and swam to shore. After they ate, Jesus asked Peter, "Simon do you love me?" 

"Yes, Lord, I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs" Then Jesus asked him again two more times, and Peter repeated his answer twice more but he became distressed. After the third time Jesus accepted the promise, but he also prophesied a difficult journey for Peter and a painful death. Then he said, "Follow me."

Seeing John, Peter questioned, "What about him?" 
Jesus said, "What is that to you. You follow me."

Have you ever been an unbeliever when Jesus offered proof of his faithfulness to you? Have you ever come to him in repentance? Do you follow him now? There is still work to do for his name and time for repentance. 

Lent 2016--Day Forty

Seven Last Sayings of Jesus

1. Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34) Jesus prayed a lot. He went to Gethsemane often to pray alone or with the disciples. We went alone at night to pray and commune with God his Father. He rose early and went out before daylight to pray. At the hour of his greatest need, he did not abandon this practice.

He preached forgiveness. Forgive those who do bad things to you. Forgive your enemies. He forgave those who came to him and blessed them. The Jewish law said you should forgive seven times, but Jesus said forgive seventy times seven. Now he was forgiving those who were killing him. Forgiveness stood the test: No matter the circumstance, forgiveness is always appropriate.

2. I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:39-43) Even the others who were crucified criticized him. When one taunted him to save himself and them to, the other thief, reproved him. "We are only getting what we deserve, but this man is just. "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 
Jesus replied, "This day you will be with me in paradise." 

3. He said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is you mother."( John 19:26-27) In the midst of torture and pain, he did not neglect his mother. She was there to be with him at the end as she had been at the beginning. Preachers and teachers make a big deal about  addressing her in public with a rebuke. Don't let it overwhelm you. Here he is concerned about her welfare and someone to care for her.

4. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"(Matt 27:45-50) This is a quote from Psalms 22:1 and expresses the depth of Jesus' abandonment by his Father. I have heard a lot of comments explaining this: God is holy and he did not commune, even with Jesus, when he carried the sin of the world. The other angle is the magnitude of the sacrifice Jesus made to cover sin. There was more to the sacrifice than death.

5. "I thirst." Medical science emphasizes the extreme thirst he would have endured. He would probably have breathed through his mouth. The blood loss alone would have increased his thirst added to the six hours he hung there. (John 19:28-29)

6. "Father into you hands I commit my Spirit."(Luke 23:40-49)Again he quotes from Psalms, Psalms 31:5 which reflects the sorrow and abject dependence he has on his Father. It is not a cry of surrender but he shouted in victory. It cost him everything, but it defeated the enemy.

7. "It is finished."(John 19:28-36) Redemption was accomplished. It was destined from the foundation of the world, and now it was a reality. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Thirty-Nine

Day of the Death of Jesus

Friday is the day that we accept as the traditional day of Jesus' crucifixion, but there are many reasons to suspect that the day was earlier in the week.

For one thing all references say he was in the tomb for three days. Friday afternoon to Sunday morning does not comprise three full days. Jesus prophesied that he would follow the example of Jonah: As Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.(Matt. 12:38-41) That would make the day of the crucifixion fall on Wednesday. Then Thursday, Friday, and Saturday would be three days and three nights.

The way we count it now, he died on Friday afternoon about 3:00, was in the tomb all day Saturday, and rose on Sunday morning. That comes out to be one full day and fractions of two other days. It works well for Holy week and gives us a chance to honor each step in the move toward the sacrifice of Jesus. Maybe it's enough to note all the details and accept what we can't change.

Other Characters in the Story

Judas is an important person in the crucifixion story. He was one of the twelve. It's not uncommon for believers to discount him. I once heard someone say, "He was never a real disciple. He could not have really been a believer." 

The preacher in the group said, "He cast out demons." His observation made me think again. You can't dismiss it that quickly.

Pilate also is a major player in the crucifixion. He seems to have been a weak administrator. He had no strong convictions and was swayed by public opinion. He found no reason to execute Jesus, but he just wanted not to be blamed so he washed his hands in the presence of the crowd who called for crucifixion. After the crucifixion he did seek repentance.

Then there was Peter who denied even knowing Jesus when servants pointed him out as a follower . Peter had been a leader in the disciples, and he often spoke for the group. He sometimes spoke when he should have been silent.

Death of Jesus

Jesus carried, at least, the crossbeam of the cross to Golgotha, until he fell under it's weight. The soldiers found a Cyrenian man named Simon and forced him to help. He was placed on the cross about 9:00 a.m. From noon until three in the afternoon there was an eclipse or a storm that darkened the day. He spoke several times, and the seven sayings from the cross should be studied individually.

Burial of Jesus 

He was buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. They asked Pilate for the body and wrapped it in clean linen and placed it in a new tomb and sealed it with a stone. Pilate ordered soldiers to guard the tomb as if they could prevent resurrection .

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Thirty-Eight

Order of events after the Lord's Supper

Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the Lord praying "that the cup might pass from me, but nevertheless, not my will but thine be done." John records in chapter 17 the prayer that is known as the High Priestly Prayer before they leave to go to Gethsemane. Judas had left already.

Mount of Olives or Gethsemane 

They were all aware of the place since Jesus had gone there with them before. He told them to stay here while he prayed. Then he took Peter, James , and John a little farther. He expressed to them his abject sorrow because he knew tomorrow he would die.

He went on a stone's throw and knelt and prayed. He never directly asked God to remove this trial; he only sought his will. "I'll do whatever you want," he said. He was sorrowful that they could not support him with their prayers. He knew the trial they would face, and he wanted them to be able to bear with him. 

The blood vessels in his forehead ruptured under the stress of anguish, and blood poured through the pores like sweat. After he prayed the third time, he came back and woke them and said, "Get up. My betrayer is here."

Judas's Kiss

Judas came to him and kissed him. That was the signal the chief priests and elders were waiting for. There was some scuffling. Peter drew a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's slave. Jesus reproved him and healed the ear.

Jesus asked them what they wanted. 
They said, "Jesus of Nazareth"
"I am he," Jesus said. They fell back from him. "I taught in the Temple every day. Why didn't you say something then?"

Peter's Denial

Then they took him away. The disciples scattered. Peter and John followed to the high priest's house. In the crowd around a fire in the yard, Peter denied Jesus, and the cock crowed. Jesus turned and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered Jesus' words and wept.

Read Mark 14:32-42, Matt. 26:36-46 Luke 22:39-57

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Thirty-Seven

Things Were Winding Down

Supper was over. Jesus had instituted a new ritual ceremony with bread and wine. He had lowered himself to wash their feet. He was still speaking with urgency. (John16:25-28)

"I spoke in proverbs and parables, but now I must speak to you plainly about my Father. No longer will I pray for you to the Father for the Father loves you because you have loved me. I'm going to Him."

"Oh, now we understand you are speaking plainly." They nodded in agreement.
"Now's the time. You will be scattered. But I have told you this so that you will have peace in me. I have conquered the world."

Jesus Prays

He lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed that God would glorify him even as he would glorify God.

He prays for the disciples who had been a gift to him from the Father, and now he  raises them to receive of the Father's love as he has.

He embraces his departure from the world. He commits them to God's grace and them to his providence. He sends them into the world to witness to it as the Father had sent him. 

Then he included us. He prayed for all those who would believe in him because of their word. He prayed for them to be united in love as he had been with the Father. He prayed that the love with which God had loved him might be in his followers and he may also be with us all.(John 17)

After this he and the disciples crossed the Kidron Valley and entered the Garden of Getheseme.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Thirty-Six

Jesus Cleansed The Temple  

 Jesus got to Jerusalem and the first place he went was to the Temple. He found the money changers and the sellers of doves and other animals for sacrifice. He made a whip and drove them out.(Matthew 21:12)

He said, "It is written, "My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves."

History Of The Temple

Solomon's Temple stood on the East side of the Old City. The highest part of the rock where it is believed the altar of burnt-offering was situated. This rock was the threshing floor of Araunah which David purchased for 600 gold shekels. 

Nothing of Solomon's Temple is left. The Dome of the Rock now stands there. The Temple was rebuilt after the Exile by Ezra and Nehemiah.

Herod's Temple

The construction of Herod's Temple was begun in bce 19 and was almost completed in 10 years, but some work continued until AD 64. The building of Herod's Temple was an attempt to reconcile the Jews to an Idumaean King rather than glorify God. Efforts were made to respect the sacred area and 1000 priests were trained as masons for the work. An area about 450 meters from north to south and about 300 meters from east to west was leveled and a wall of massive blocks about a meter high was constructed.

Jesus Predicts Destruction

As they left the complex, one of the disciples commented on the massive stones and the beautiful buildings. Jesus said, "Look at them! They will all be thrown down. Not one stone will be left on another."(Mark 13:1-2)

Not only Jesus would be killed, but the Temple and the city where they worshiped would be destroyed. This was more serious than they thought. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Thirty-Five

Jesus sent John and Peter to "a certain man," who remains nameless, to secure a place to celebrate the Passover. Jesus calls himself the Teacher. This man is certainly a disciple and Jesus did not hesitate to make a request of him. 

As he approached Jerusalem, he sent two disciples, maybe Peter and John, to get the donkey for him to ride. He had made prior arrangement for the use of a donkey and the room.

In both instances Jesus and the man had some understanding and 
if it wasn't the same man, we know Jesus may have had many acquaintances that are not mentioned in the Bible. I would like to know who they were and how he affected their lives.
Sometimes the Bible writers were very sparing with information. I guess that's why preachers build stories or parables or guesses that aren't substantiated

Jesus has all the plans made for how the week would go. He did not question or halt in this demanding time. During the three or four days from the going to Jerusalem he seemed to teach with great fervor. It was more hurried than the preaching in the fields or by the sea shore. Sometimes the parables regarded the Pharisees and the Temple. Sometimes they were related to the pressure mounting against him. He wanted his disciples to be prepared for the mission. He stressed the need for watchfulness.

Finally he wanted to share the Passover with them. He wanted them to have this experience and to be able to see it as a source of strength. They would need this reassurance and support. He knew they would be scattered and isolated, and this was his last chance to form them into a united group. It was all he could do.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Palm Sunday--Sixth Sunday in Lent 2016

Matt. 21:1-9, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-38, and John 12:12-18 all give details of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem accompanied by shouts and people spreading palm branches. This almost sounds like there is going to be a coronation, at least to everyone but Jesus. As soon as he neared the city he had called two of his disciples and gave instruction to bring an animal to ride on. 

He went into the Temple and drove the money changers and traders out proclaiming: My house shall be called the house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves. The chief priest and elders of the people challenged his authority, but he defended himself and silenced them.

He spent time in teaching with parables, but his mind was stayed on the culminating event of this week, his own crucifixion and death. He directed the disciples in the preparation of the Last Supper and he came to the Garden to pray for strength and guidance. 

Matthew's Gospel continually reminds us that these events were predicted by the prophets and they are integrated in our minds as fixed; there was no other outcome possible. Peter was severely rebuked by Jesus because he reproved Jesus for saying it. The end was in sight.

Peter drew a sword in defense of Jesus, but Jesus restrained him. "Put the sword in the sheath," he said."The cup my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?" He knew the rest of the story. He had prayed that it might be otherwise, but the answer to the prayer was already settled. From the foundation of the earth it was settled. This was the time. 

Lent 2016--Day Thirty-Four


John 18 and 21
By Gayle Haynes

Charcoal on the embers made a warming fire;
Bitter smoke swirled up and burned my nose.
"You were with Him," a servant said three times
"He had friends and you were one of those."
What threat could my love of Him now pose?

"Not I," I said, and stepped back in the dark.
I could not speak or witness of his power.
Danger was everywhere; when the soldiers came,
I took a sword to defend him in that hour.
What recompense to pay if now I cower?

Suddenly the cock crowed twice and my heart froze.
His words came back with bitter taste and tears.
"You will deny me, I who washed your feet."
He knew my weakness; the knowledge burns and sears.
What judgment waits for me in future years?
Again, beside a charcoal fire, agony was ripe.
“Do you love me more than these?” he said.
Now my fear was of a different type
For He asked me to follow where he led.
How could His amazing love swallow all my dread?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Thirty-Three

After the supper was over, he had given the Disciples bread and wine and explained the meaning of the ceremony, his body and his blood for their redemption. Then, he made a somewhat casual comment that the one who would betray was sitting at the table with him.

Immediately they began to question who would do that. They argued among themselves accusing each other and defending themselves.

Soon the argument morphed into a dispute about who should be the greatest of them. Jesus was not pleased with this display of attempted domination. He reminded them that the greatest would be the one who served. 

You will, indeed, sit at my table in the Kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel.

Read this in Luke 22:23-24

It is easy for us to be distracted by this kind of argument and dissension. It is never God's will. We are to serve and remain humble and obedient. Remember this scene the next time you take communion.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Thirty-Two

Luke 20:46-47 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”(RSV)

Jesus spoke these harsh words against the most visibly religious group found in the synagogue. They were religious and they wanted everybody to know it. 

We still have people like that. People who are dedicated, but mostly they are dedicated to their own appearance of righteousness. They want everyone to know how much they studied and how much they gave in the offering. At Easter they relish sharing the sacrifices they made and what they gave up for Lent. 

Beware of that kind of testimony: When it means we are getting the glory, there is not much left for the Lord. 

I have known some someone who witnessed like that. It is sad that she gave up eating bread and shared the message so prominently that nobody enjoyed the meal because this one is so miserable. I got the impression she would have a purer testimony if she had not mentioned her sacrifice. At least the Grace at the beginning would not have put everyone on a guilt trip.

In another place Jesus advised those who fast, to wash their face and be cheerful in the face of deprivation so their praise was solid and gracious. If you are making a sacrifice voluntarily, don't moan about it and lament. Let it be a joyful thing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Thirty-One

John 16:7-11 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.(NIV)

This night had been special. The Disciples had celebrated the Passover with Jesus. There had been lengthy discussions that would reverberate through the centuries about Jesus leaving them, about the meaning of the coming days, about the meaning of the vine and the branches. He wanted them to remember these words. "I am going away," he said. "But I'll send another, a Comforter, who will stay with you. I am returning to the One who sent me. The Comforter will be with you to convince the world of its sin since it does not believe in me, and of righteousness because I will be with my Father and he will forgive your sin, and the Prince of this world has been judged.

This night would take on meanings they did not see until later. Then they would understand what had happened and they would reenact it for others. They would be scattered and fearful for a time, but they would remember that he promised them peace of heart and mind. It was hard to consider all these things at once. It would take some time for them to grasp all he had said. 

But this night was that promise. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Thirty

Matthew 12:36-37 But I say unto you that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give of it in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shall be justified, and by thy words thy shalt be condemned.(KJV)

Your words reveal the nature within you. A good man will be revealed by his words. Jesus in this passage may be referring to the Pharisees who spoke against him, or you and me when we idly prattle about other people. Idle words are words that have no good intent. Careless words can bring harm and insult, while at the same time, they reveal a mind and heart with no positive hope or joy. 

It's time to inventory our words to evaluate what they show about the state of hearts and minds. If, indeed, our own words are the vehicle of our judgment, we are able to order them so that what we say and how we say it will reflect well on us. Fill your heart and mind with words of blessing and truth so that what comes out of your mouth will be rewarding, not a reproach.

We seem to forget that words have power and authority. We have the opportunity to fill our lives with words that bless, to speak them into the days of our lives, to shower them on our loved ones. It is a waste of time and breath to use words that are meaningless or words that demean and hinder, when we could be speaking words that uplift and magnify God, or that encourage and support a brother. The words you speak reveal what is in your heart, too.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Twenty-Nine

Matthew 10:1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

Jesus called the twelve to him and gave them commission to go to the Children of Israel and do what he had been doing in their presence. He said not to go to the gentiles, but to the House of Israel, the lost sheep of their own people. Their preaching was to be done in the name of the Kingdom of Heaven which was at hand. They were to go in faith and not take extra provisions, nor money.  

He told them he was sending them as sheep among wolves. This was dangerous work. Those who heard might not welcome them. They might turn against them, but they were not to retaliate, just shake the dust from their feet and move on.

They were to depend on the Spirit who would speak through them.

If you confess Jesus before men, Jesus will confess you before the Father in heaven.

Later there would be other disciples called to go out and preach and teach. This time he gave them a chance to prove to themselves they were truly called and commissioned.  It wasn't the last time, but it gave them a feel for what was coming later.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fifth Sunday in Lent 2016

John 12:3 Then Mary took a pound of fragrant oil--pure and expensive nard--anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped His feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

This was just before Passover. Jesus and his Disciples were on the way to Jerusalem but they stopped in Bethany for supper at the house of Lazarus. Mary was there and she had saved this for Jesus. Had she heard in his teaching the dire warning of his death? Perhaps. Certainly he had not been hesitant to mention it. Judas criticized her for the extravagant gesture, but Jesus defended her. "It is for my burial," he said.

Mary gave the oil to anoint Jesus' feet because she had sensed the importance of the trip to Jerusalem. He had referred to his death many times in his teaching, but the Disciples refused to hear the message. Mary saw beyond the supper and the joyous occasion. This would be his last visit to Lazarus. This was her last chance to honor him.

All who were present that night were blessed by the fragrance of Mary's sacrifice. This oil was perhaps part of her dowry. The cost was high. If it was supposed to be a gift to her husband, why would she waste it on this wandering preacher? But Mary saw Jesus as far more than a valued friend. His words gave her entrance into God's realm of peace and grace. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Twenty-Eight

He said to her, "Woman where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
      "No one Lord." she answered.
        "Neither do I condemn you." said Jesus. "Go and from now on do not sin any more." (Apologetics Bible)

This is the end of the story of the woman who was taken in an adulterous act, and the enemies of Jesus brought her to him to trap him into making an error in judgment. There was opposition to him by this time, and he almost didn't come to Jerusalem. But then he did come, and the stage was set to force him into errors.

It didn't work. He didn't say anything to the accusers. He wrote on the dirt with his finger. Did he name their sins? Did he name the time or date of their violations of the Law? Were there other women not present he could have called? Were there other more grievous sins concealed in their hearts? They slipped away as the crowd mummered. The woman was left alone. 

His message for her was simple. There was no condemnation. No stoning. No penance. He just said "Go your way and don't sin anymore."  

It's almost too easy. Forgiveness is big and powerful, and we try to make it noteworthy. To make it have that kind of impact you'd almost have to name the sin and rehearse it. But Jesus just forgave. Sin does have that big oppressing weight that crushes the human spirit into nothingness. But forgiveness is just big and powerful to the one whose sins were forgiven. For her, it was amazing. She could walk in righteousness and sin no more.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Twenty-Seven

"...Stop complaining among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets: And they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to me--not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God. He has seen the Father."(John 6:43-46 Apologetics Bible)

Jesus wants his followers, Christians, to listen to him and be obedient to the Father who loves us and calls us to himself. The Father who Jesus refers to is the same God who called Abraham and established the Jewish nation and brought them back from captivity in Babylon. He has been faithful to this people for a long time. 

Now he has brought forth Jesus who is ready to lead them into a new era called the Age of Grace. Sometimes it's called the Church Age. Now we are called to obedience, but we are released from the oppressive weight of the Jewish Law and we live in Grace manifested in the love of Jesus.

Hear the Father's voice calling, "Come to me. Come lay your burdens on Jesus. Come love and be free of sin." It sounds so easy, but you do have to respond to the Father and the Son.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lent 2916--Day Twenty-Six

John 6:40 For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (Apologetics Bible)

I have not seen the Son in the body, but through his word, I see him everyday. I claim this promise that he has given me eternal life through Jesus Christ, and he will raise me up to reign with him in the Kingdom of God forever. Join me and we'll go to the celebration. There will be joy and blessing. and we can all share his love. Forever.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Twenty-Five

Jesus' brothers were named James, Joses(Joseph), Judas, and Simon and he had sisters which are not named. The Catholic Church took the position that Mary, the mother of Jesus had no other children but Jesus. She was a perpetual virgin. I'm not Catholic, so I diverge from that view. I believe that she bore all these children to Joseph. The Catholic Church teaches that Joseph was a widower when he married Mary and the brothers and sisters are from a previous marriage. Being a Protestant frees me from doctrines accepted by the Catholic discipline.

I believe that Jesus did not have a huge influence in his family, but two of his brothers did believe and follow him. James, the author of the Book of James and Jude,who wrote the Epistle of Jude, did believe. These two may not have been in the company of the disciples until after the Resurrection. They don't appear to have been numbered among the Disciples before the crucifixion. James was the leader of the Church in Jerusalem. Both James and Jude avoid claiming any special knowledge or privilege before God and the Church. In his letter James identifies himself simply as "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." Likewise, Jude says he is "a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James." I assume that James was the second son of Mary and, perhaps, better known to the other disciples. 

The Letter of James is a profound treatise on practical Christian behavior and service. The Letter of Jude addresses the problem of standing fast in the face of false teachings and doctrine. Both deserve close and consistent study, especially in the times we now live in. 

I find it sad that it took so long for his siblings to come to understand who he was, but I value their testimony in the two letters attributed to them. The lack of family support may have helped prepare him for the rejection he received when the crowds turned against him after Palm Sunday.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Twenty Four

Matthew 13:54-58 tells a sad story of Jesus going home. He went to Nazareth and began to teach in the synagogue, but the congregation did not accept him as a conquering hero or a welcome him as a hometown boy making his mark. He hasn't been to school or followed the great teachers. Where did he get this wisdom and miracles? Isn't he the son on that carpenter Joseph. His other sons seem normal, and his daughters are all right. But that Jesus! 

Jesus  preached to them and asked if they had people he could bless, but they did not respond. Then he told them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and his own household." He did not do many works there because they lacked faith. There were a few sick people there whom he laid hands on and healed.(Mark 6:3)

Luke also recounts the trip to Nazareth in 4:16-28. In the synagogue he entered to  participate in the worship. He was given the scroll and he read from Isaiah 61:1-2b. Everyone was speaking well of him until they began to change. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" somebody said. 

"No prophet is accepted in his hometown," Jesus said. He again quoted from Isaiah in rebuke of their anger. The crowd became enraged and attempted to drive him off the edge of the hill the town was built on, but he passed through the crowd and went on his way.

When you go back to your hometown, you hope they remember you and love you and are glad to see you. Jesus knew better. He came to preach and teach a new message. We need to be ready to hear his words with new ears and love in new ways. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Twenty-Three

As Christians we spend a lot of time and ink recounting the love of God and the grace and blessing of being a believer. Jesus called the Disciples to follow him, and he made promises to them about the future and the Kingdom. He also warned them about some difficulties they'd face. He said there was a cost on discipleship. We should not go into this life of love and fellowship without knowing all sides of the question.

Luke 14:26 warns the crowds that those who follow Jesus will be required to serve him before family obligations. God and his mission must be the most important thing they will do.

He tells them they must count the cost, make sure they know what they are getting into. The parable he uses describes the man who begins a building project and doesn't have enough resources to finish it. He follows that with the story of a king who intends to go to war without enough troops. Then he mentions the value of salt but if it is corrupted, it becomes useless.

In Matthew 16:24-27  he said to the disciples,"If you want to follow me, you will have to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me." 

This then is the cost of following Jesus. Self denial and consecration are required. It doesn't sound like something you'd advertise. But you have to give him credit. He didn't want any followers that might lose their salt or their interest in the job ahead.

In John 6:48 Jesus claimed to be the Bread of Life and insisted that his disciples would eat his flesh or draw their sustenance from him. In 6:60 many of those who had followed in the crowds found this saying to hard to hear and left him.

His demand have not changed. He still requires us to love him more than family or self. He still cautions us to count the cost. He still demands that we rest in his care and find our peace and strength in him. And it's still hard. It still carries the promises of salvation and eternal rest. You want to come along?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Fourth Sunday in Lent 2016

The Common Lectionary Reading from the Gospel for this day is the story of the Prodigal Son. In my comments for the Twenty Second Day of Lent I discussed the importance of the lost lamb, and I am assuming that many preachers more qualified than I am will use the Prodigal Son as a topic for today, so I will return to the first story in this trilogy of stories that all carry a single emphasis on the joy of finding the lost item.

My research did not confirm the details I will cite here, but I will share with you the reason the silver coin was so important to the woman who lit the lamp and swept the corner of the room til she found the coin. The coin was an embellishment on a headdress she had worn on her wedding day. There were ten of the coins and they were a part of her dowry. She had kept them safe and worn the ornament only on very rare and festive occasions since she married.

Losing even one of the coins was a serious loss for her. It represented so much of her family pride and symbolized the joy she shared with her husband. She shared with her friends the crushing sadness of the loss, so the joy of recovering it was great indeed.
She called all the neighbors and friends and showed them her prized possession. It was a day to wear her finest dress even if it wasn't a holiday and even if there was no procession. Her joy knew no bounds.

So it is in heaven when a lost soul is recovered: The angels in heaven rejoice!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Twenty two

Luke 15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable:
Jesus was a hit with the tax collectors and sinners and they came to hear his teaching. He did not insult them or put them down. One of them became a disciple. 
On this day he told them three stories that described the joy of finding something that had been lost. The first story discussed the shepherd who lost a lamb. We never raised sheep, but my uncle did once. He said they were dumb. They got lost and in briers or tangled in a fence if they could. They looked for a place to lie down and die until they finally found it if you didn't watch them. But in Jesus' story the shepherd comes back joyfully with the sheep on his shoulders.
The second story was of a woman who lost a valuable coin; she swept the house and moved the furniture until she found the coin. Then she called the neighbors and rejoiced because she found the coin which was so important to her.
The third one is the story of a son who left home and family and was lost to their company. He returned and his father was overwhelmed to see him. His father threw a big party and invited friends to celebrate with joy because of the son's return.
In each of these stories the emphasis is on the joy of finding the lost item. Jesus told it as a lesson to the critics, the Pharisees and scribes who murmured saying, he welcomed sinners and ate with them.
He welcomes us when we have sinned or gotten lost, too. It rules are the same now as they were when Jesus told the story. He is still ready to have a party and celebrate the one who returns. Come to him and rejoice!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Twenty One

Luke 13:8-9 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

The fig tree is often used to symbolize Israel in the Bible. Jesus used the metaphor in this parable. It is hard to hear the judgment in this verse. If Israel does not learn the lesson, they will come under punishment. Jesus is the last chance. If they are not responsive to his message, there will be recompense. 

In verse 3 and again in verse 5, Jesus says, "No,I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all perish as well."

What is the lesson of the Fig Tree for you and me? Are we under the same demand for fruit that Israel was? Are we not expected to bear fruit and be productive in the cause of Jesus?

He is patient and kind, but there is a time to be fruitful. Don't let it pass.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Twenty

John 15:26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

Jesus tries to encourage the disciples. They are still together, but they know now there are enemies about and Jesus is threatened. He does not fear what's coming, but he knows it will be bad. He has yet to pray the final prayer of surrender in the Garden of Gethsemane, but he is trying to prepare them for what will come.

He wants them to know their testimony will be required as an integral part of the mission. They will have to remember and speak up. They will have to tell others what he said and carry on when he is gone. 

They had been with him from the beginning, and they knew the truth about him, about his connection with the Father, about his Transformation, about his love. Their testimony would be crucial for the believers and for the Church.

They would have a new Spirit with them to guide them, but their witness was still their greatest strength because they had been with him from the start.

We have a testimony, too. What has he done for you? Has he blessed you? Saved you? Brought you into a new life with the Father and the Spirit? You, too, must testify!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Lent 2016--Day Nineteen

When Jesus preached and taught, the people were astonished at him because he spoke with authority. He was not hesitant, and he didn't mince words. He said they should build their lives on solid foundations. Building on sand was not substantial, and it would not weather the storm. Their lives needed strong supports that came with his words, and they must rest on his teaching. The scribes were versed in the technicalities of the law, but it was the Spirit of the Law that would sustain them in hard times.

He used the example of a house built on sand and one built on a solid rock to illustrate the lesson.(Matt. 7:24-27, Luke:6:46-49) He is the foundation that will weather the storm. Build your life on Jesus and obey his teaching.

Lent 2016--Day Eighteen

They said, "Lord, teach us to pray."

"O.K. Don't put on a show. Prayer is a conversation with the Father in heaven. It's not an opportunity for you to say things you can't say in public. It's also not a time to preach or criticize. It is a time to be humble and honest. Your Father knows what you need. Don't try to pad the account.

Pray for the welfare of others and forgive them when you pray so that He will also forgive you. 

Remember to be grateful. 

Rejoice that your future home is in heaven with God. There is nothing to fear there.

Fasting is a private affair. Don't brag about it, but learn it's lessons.

God lives in glory and he invites you there. Praise His name. Amen.