Friday, November 30, 2012

Let us return

“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.
(Hosea 6:1-2)
Besides being an early prophecy of the resurrection, this is a great call for us to return to the Lord. Every time God threw in a mention of the Messiah, it was in the midst of a call to get right with Him, to live life in His presence.  Every time we celebrate Advent is a season for us to repent, to return to Him, to seek His revival. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mercy and Grace

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. Zechariah 12:10
It's what we need: God's mercy and grace. God promised to send it - in fact, to pour it out. And He has - in His Son Who was pierced and Who shed His blood for us.  So thankful He keeps His promises.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Righteous One

"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’  " Jeremiah 23:
As much as Israel was looking for their Messiah to come - a king after the line of David, deep down they knew, and God reminded them, that what they needed was righteousness.  They were not right with God; they needed One to save them and to rule over them.  Jesus is that righteous One, the one we all need to save us and rule over us.  God has raised Him up for us.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Looking for a sign from God???

 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 ESV)
As He promised, God has sent a sign, a living and breathing sign, who displayed for us His love and power.  Everywhere we go we see signs for sales, trying to tell us what we need.  But they are made of dead wood.  Jesus is the one we need - the living Word of God to us.  Let us look to Him!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Time to get ready...

 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. (Malachi 3:1-2 ESV)
Israel was looking for Her long-awaited Messiah.  But was she ready? Are we ready? Malachi, the last-recorded prophet of the Old Testament challenged them and challenges us to get ready for His coming.  Let us look back and be reminded of His promises.  Let us look up and seek Him. Let us look within and open our hearts to see and listen.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Glad you came... glad you left???

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.  (Luke 24:50-53 ESV)
Jesus left this earth much as He came - without worldwide public acclaim, something special to look at in the sky, a special messenger from heaven, and... joy.  His Incarnation and ascension were both accompanied by great joy.  His followers were glad to see Him go.  What a change from the days of the cross and before. Whenever He talked about "going away" they became upset. But now, joy. Why? Because now their hearts and minds were open to see how it all fits together. Now they believe all the promises are true - those of Scripture, those of the Savior. And He is coming back, just as He said. It's all part of the big picture. Now, when we talk of Christ at any time in His visitation, we can look at it with great joy, as we look forward to His return as well.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Opened Minds

 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49 ESV)
Skepticism.  It rules and reigns in our hearts and minds.  Even with all the evidence and testimony that Christ has presented and others have given throughout history, we have a bent toward skepticism.  We have closed minds to the truth.  When that stops, and the light comes on, and the Holy Spirit takes the truth and transforms our lives, it makes all the difference.  It is something we not only believe, but can not help but share.

Friday, November 23, 2012


 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:36-43 ESV)
This is the big question of the chapter. Why do you seek the living among the dead? Why are you so slow of heart to believe? Why are you still confused and doubtful even now?  Like Peter's failed attempt to walk on water, Jesus still rightly asks not only "Why DID you doubt?", but "Why are you still doubting?"  Seeing is not believing.  We are waiting for something else... the One who will help us understand that all His Words are true, just as He said.  Without the Holy Spirit all the facts still do not add up. We need Him.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The light comes on...

 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.(Luke 24:28-35 ESV)
What was the key that enlightened them? The Scriptures.  Jesus had shown them scripture after scripture that pointed to Him as the Messiah.  Finally, they can put it all together.  Over and over we see this priniciple - without the Word of God, and the Spirit of God, there is no light.  All the physical evidence in the world is insufficient to lead us to the Truth without them. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Here's the problem...

 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 ESV)
The disciples of Jesus were confused, full of doubt, and beside themselves.  Why? They had failed to remember, appreciate, and fully receive the things God had been saying throughout history, and especially now through His Son.  Not only was His suffering prophesied. It was essential - necessary to what God was doing.   Let us listen in faith.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

One little detail...

 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” (Luke 24:19-24 ESV)
They fell for it.  The old "seeing is believing" lie.  They had a few years of evidence that Jesus was not just merely a man (yet they refer to Him the way skeptics and gossipers did, as "Jesus of Nazareth.") They had had high hopes.  They had the empty tomb, testimony of the angels, and heart-felt conviction of the women, but it was just not enough. Their self-attested faith had failed to bring them through.  So it is no suprise when Jesus said: "Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Who's the clueless one???

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:13-18 ESV)
To be sure, all of the disciples were puzzled over the occurances of Resurrection Day.  Even though they had Jesus' promises that this would happen, it was a mind-boggling event.  What is so telling is how these two, like we often do, think that this Stranger is the one who is deaf and blind to reality.  We often fail to see God at work right in front of us. In reality, we act is if we know more than He does.  We definitely need a much more humble approach, as we step back, shut up, and let Him explain.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What we're called to be

 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)
Paul, like Jesus, would occasionally double up his words to make emphasis. In this case, our calling is important.  As a manual on "How to do Church," his letter to the Ephesians makes it very clear what we are called to do in the fellowship of beleivers: allow God to smooth off the rough edges and cool down our tempers, bringing peace and love within us as individuals, so that those virtues will also be what characterizes the church to which we belong.  The Body can be no better than the parts which make it. Let us carry out our calling today.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Quiet meeting...

 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 ESV)
Looking back on the week and forward to tomorrow, I have a thankful heart. Among other events of the week was our church annual meeting, which was very quiet and positive - verse 13 in action.  And I feel esteemed, considering our upcoming trip to Israel (I think that means they love us...).  And it's great to have a group of couples open themselves up to God's Word and ways, even allowing Him to admonish us on how to love each other better.  Much to be thankful for indeed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Getting a Grip on Reality

 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. (Luke 24:12 ESV)
Having heard the unbelievable, Peter ran to see the evidence for himself: the wrappings, the empty tomb.  And he went home marveling, still not believing.  Seeing is not believing, as much of a realist as one may claim to be.  Peter had also heard.  But unlike the women, he refused to remember and trust.  Trust in God and in the One He sent to tell us.  That is essential if we are to embrace reality.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

There's that little word again...

 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (Luke 24:10-11 ESV)
Luke, the historian who interviewed eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus, gives names here to a credibility to his record.  These were women who knew Jesus best, inside and out. They loved the Truth, so their word should not have been questioned. BUT the apostles had a hard time accepting the truth, even though they were the first ones Jesus had told and they themselves had told these women what Jesus had said.  How hard-headed and hard-hearted we men can be. We often choose not to believe. Thank God for His persistence and patience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The three Rs of faith

 And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. (Luke 24:8-9 ESV)
Most of us old enough to remember when Math was Arithmetic recall the three Rs of school - reading, wRiting and aRithmetic.  These women had three Rs in their faith journey that resurrection morning. First, they did Remember what Jesus had said. His word came back to them. Then they Returned to where they were to be - praying together. Finally, they Reported what they had remembered, seen and heard, and what that meant - He is risen indeed, just as He said.  We need to do the same thing when life startles us: remember what God has said, return to where we need in prayer and fellowship with Him, and share with others what God has taught us, to help each other in our faith journey.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:4-7 ESV)
These two messengers call on these women to think and rethink what is happening in light of what Jesus had said.  All through Luke that has been the question: "Do you believe what Jesus says? If you really believed what He said, you wouldn't be here right now." That still leaves some remembering and soul-searching as to where they SHOULD be; but it is quite there that the tomb is not the place they should expect to find Jesus.  He has risen.

Monday, November 12, 2012


 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (Luke 24:1-3 ESV)
Luke is the great historian and fact-finder.  He has presented Theopholis with repeated testimony that Jesus Christ was wrongly executed as an innocent man.  He now begins to present evidence that He did not stay dead: the moved stone, the lack of a body - these things call for further investigation, which is exactly what Luke is calling for.  The evidence is overwhelming that Jesus has done what He said He will do: lay down His life and take it up again.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Who wants a dead Savior?

 Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.
 On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. 
(Luke 23:50-56 ESV)
Why come forward now? That is the question for Joseph of Arimathea.  He had kept his life as a follower of Jesus secret for this long; why come forward now and look like a follower of a loser? And these women: give it up already! They have ministered to Jesus all through His ministry. One of them anointed Him ahead of time; they saw what Joseph did - why keep planning to follow and minister to a dead body?  Because Jesus gives hope to the hopeless.  This is a sign of true faith in the true Savior: He is going to make a way out of this; I, like Job, just need to keep following and sticking close to Him.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Look who's watching

 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.(Luke 23:44-49 ESV)
We have seen that as the crowds watched, all but one of the witnesses mocked Jesus in some way or another, but at His death, other witnesses come forward.  First, and foremost, God the Father has been watching the whole time and tears the veil, as the High priest had torn his garment, as if to say on the one hand blasphemy has been committed, and on the other hand, that He was welcoming His Son into His presence.  The centurion, who has seen the whole event over the course of hours, proclaims that Jesus was innocent, righteous, acceptable to God.  Many of the crowd now react as if to say: "This just isn't right!"  And those who knew Him well, especially these women, keep watching in shocked silence.  They had been there the whole journey to Jerusalem, and now it was over. Or was it?

Friday, November 9, 2012

There's one in every crowd...

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43 ESV)
Jesus was looking all around at the crowd looking for someone, anyone, who would trust Him and reverence Him for Who He was - the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God.  As we often see in the Gospels, He found Him in the most unlikely place - on the cross right next to Him. This man was willing to admit the sinner he was, fear God, and ask Christ for the grace only He could give.  It is a pivotal event in the flow of a horrible day, as we will see in what happens next...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Each in their own way...

 And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”  (Luke 23:34b-38 ESV)
As we examine the crowd that gathered around the cross, each one "consented to his death" (a phrase used to describe those who watched Stephen be stoned in Acts 7)  Here, the rulers scoffed at the idea that He could be their Savior.  The Soldiers piped in and added a mockery of His Messiahship, and Pilate, by way of the sign, added his mockery in abstentia.  But the bottom line is that almost everyone there mocked Him and was content to see Him silenced - by their silence. They "stood by, watching."  Each one of us has our share in putting Christ on the cross.  Thankfully, by faith, each one of us can have our share in what He did there.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Led away

 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:32-34a ESV)
Luke leaves out some of the nasty details found in the other gospels.  There is no need: Theopholis, the Roman official to whom he wrote was all too familiar with crucifixion.  It was a cruel execution for criminals, which Pilate, another Roman official, had made very clear Jesus was not.  Jesus' response to all this? Plead for their forgiveness.  They had been led away from the truth as they led Jesus and the other two away from the city and out to the Skull.  We are so easily led away and led astray. Father, forgive us. May we be more like Him.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dead wood burns fast...

 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:27-31 ESV)
As Jesus was being led to the cross, many people, who were not privy to the proceedings that brought the pronouncement of death, flocked to His support.  Luke, who often shows the part of women in the life and ministry of Jesus, records this event where they mourned what was happening. And mourning was appropriate, but not mainly for the reason they did so.  Israel was rejecting their Messiah, and so, would bring upon herself destruction - a destruction Jesus had spoken about.  Just as He had had compassion and wept over Jerusalem, He was still the compassionate Christ here, as He was concerned over these women.  Weep they should - in repentance and faith, accepting Him as Messiah. Because judgment day is coming.  And if the Romans crucified Him as an innocent Man, what would they do with a nation with blood on their hands?  When the judgment of God would come, it would not be like green wood, full of life like He was, that would overcome the fire (His resurrection), but it would be an all-consuming fire that rushes through a pile of dead brush.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A special privilege...

 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. (Luke 23:26 ESV)
Sometimes I wonder strange things.  We know that all the disciples had scattered in the garden.  Peter and another disciple showed up at the trials, and we don't know how long that other disciple hung around.  Then John shows up at the foot of the cross.  But what about this journey? Did any of them join the crowds for the walk to the crucifixion? From the descriptions of the gospels it might appear so.  If so, what went through their minds, to see someone else take up the cross and follow after Jesus? What goes through our minds when we see someone else doing what God has called us to do, and we have abandoned it?  What special privileges do we miss out on?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Standing in the breach(gap)

 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 22:30-31 ESV)
The next three days have been declares a time of prayer and repentance, fasting, and then doing what God has called us to do - vote biblically.  May we take this sacred responsibility seriously and joyfully before Him.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Basic Economics

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day. II Thessalonians 3:7,8
This simple truth is home base when it comes to every area of economics: the home, the church, the community, the nation.  To be sure there are "exceptions" to the rule - the scriptures list many.  But when the exceptions become the rule, then we are too far from home base.  Everyone needs to do their part: every family member needs to pitch in with chores; every church member needs to his/her gifts and talents for the work of the body; every community member needs to see themselves as contributing to the whole, and not see the community as "owing" them.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Humility of Heart

"And you ... have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored." (Daniel 5:17ff.)
As Daniel addressed this king, he got to the point.  He was going to be replaced because he was puffed up with pride. He knew full well Who God is, what He is capable of, and what He expects, but the king failed to honor Him.  Instead, his praise and trust went elsewhere.  As we prepare to vote in this election, not all candidates will declare faith in Christ; some will say they believe because it is what people want to hear.  May we be discerning as we seek to see what their actions say. Do they honor God and trust Him? If not, may the kingdom be taken from them.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What do you want to do with Him?

 So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will. (Luke 23:24-25 ESV)
Here is the most powerful man in Jerusalem giving in to these complaining conspirators.  Luke puts it very bluntly - he allowed the people to put a hardened criminal back on the streets, while releasing to them the Innocent Man of all times, to do as they wished.  Of course, God was allowing this for the accomplishment of His will, which has infinitely greater authority than Pilate's power.  But it also raises another issue - our free will.  What would we do with Jesus if we had our own way - if we were given liberty to do whatever we wanted?  Maybe we should ask "What do we do with Him?" Ignore Him?  Occasionally used His name as a curse?  Wish He would just stop convicting us?  Before we self-righteously accuse these leaders, what would we do, if we could do anything we wanted?