Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Made and re-made in the image of Christ

Colossians 3:9-11 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 
As Paul continues to exhort us to be willing recipients of the transformation process, He builds upon one of the most cardinal truths: our creation in the image of God.  We are to treat one another with honor, in both speech and action, because we are all made in the image of God. This is doubly true of how we are to treat one another in the body of Christ - not only are we all made in the image of God, we are re-made, born anew, in the image of Christ.  As believers we have twice as much reason to treat others with honor in our speech and actions.  We also have double reason to revere and honor God with our words and actions: He is our Father that we should resemble - both as our Creator, and as the one who had made us new through Christ.  It is not a list of external rules, but it comes from who we are within.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wrath for wrath...

Colossians 3:5-8 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 
The transformation process which God has begun in the believer's heart is to be pronounced.  It is to show in how we use our bodies, and how we use our mouths.  Using our bodies for whatever makes us feel good, with no regard for God or others makes those things our idols - we worship them instead of Him.  As for our mouths, using them as offensive weapons against the holiness of God or the honor due another human being is also wrong.  The short sentence that should jump off the page is nestled in between: "On account of these the wrath of God is coming."  God's wrath is coming because of man's sinful wrath - our unleashed words and actions that occur as if He did not exist.  His wrath is just; ours is not.  He is holy; without Christ and His transforming power we are not.  May we put to death and put away what does not please Him today.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A new way to look...

 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV)
As Paul calls on us to examine the progress of the transformation process in our lives, He begins with our minds, our perspectives, the way we view things.  Having Christ as King means we think totally differently about the past, present, and future.  We died to our old life and were raised to a new one. We are now citizens of heaven, where Christ is, and that is where our minds should be. We also are to view our future differently: Christ is coming back and we will join Him.  Everywhere we look - past, present and future, Christ is there, and that makes all the difference.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Twisting the truth...

Matthew 28:11-15 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. 
The soldiers, not knowing what had happened to them, nevertheless went to share the facts with those who had hired them.  They, in turn, took the facts and reshaped them into a new story to fit their view - they were unwilling to accept Jesus for Who He said He was, because that would mean saying that they were wrong.  We have a hard time admitting we are wrong, and often re=interpret the facts to fit our self-defense.  Let us be committed to the truth that Christ is King, He is truth, and we need to be changed to fit those facts, not twist the facts to fit our "story".

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Matthew 28:8-10 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” 
The Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ intersect in so many ways.  Both events were filled with both fear and great joy.  Both times an angel brought Greetings.  And both times people end up coming to worship Jesus Christ.  That is what today is all about; worshipping Him as Savior and King. but it does not stop with a one-day joyful event.  In both cases again those who worshipped then went and told: the shepherds told everyone they could find, the women who witnessed the risen Christ told the disciples who then were instructed to go and make disciples. Today, may we too receive the greetings, the invitation to come and see, bow and worship, and go and tell.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Come and See...

Matthew 28:5-7 Responding to the women, the angel said, “Stop being frightened! I know you’re looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here. He has been raised, just as he said. Come and see the place where he was lying. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead. He is going ahead of you into Galilee, and you will see him there. Remember, I have told you!” 
At both His incarnation and resurrection, the invitation of the angels was to "come and see".  The shepherds were invited to go and see the newborn King, while here at the resurrection the women were invited to come see where he had been laid.  May this day be a day when we stop and see, and recognize Who He is laying there, what He has done, and what it means that He no longer is laying in the tomb.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Word of the day: Catatonic

Matthew 28:1-4 After the Sabbaths, around dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to take a look at the burial site. Suddenly, there was a powerful earthquake, because an angel of the Lord had come down from heaven, approached the stone, rolled it away, and was sitting on top of it. His appearance was bright as lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. Trembling from fear, even the guards themselves became catatonic. 
Many of us are familiar with the old King James translation of this last word: "became as dead men." The dictionary definition of "catatonic" is: being characterized by muscular rigidity and mental stupor." In other words, one cannot move or speak.  This experience was so stunning, they could not function as normal.  That was the effect of the resurrection of Christ.  A similar effect was seen at His Incarnation, when the shepherds were "sore afraid" or "feared a great fear."  Intense fear immobilizes;  you do know know what to do, so you do nothing.  But this state cannot continue, it must be broken.  These two greatest days of human history demand a proper response. We must go, we must speak.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Anything to hide the truth...

 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. (Matthew 27:62-66 ESV)
It's almost amazing to see the extent to which these leaders would go to cover up their crime - almost. But we often do the same thing. Rather than be "found out", we try to "cover our tracks," to make it appear that if any wrongdoing does surface, someone else gets blamed.  The action of these leaders represents well our often unwillingness to admit our sin, ask forgiveness, come clean, and let the truth be seen and heard.  May the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ burn in our hearts and minds the need for "Truth" in the flesh.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Faithful Friends...

Matthew 27:55-61 Now many women were also there, watching from a distance. They had accompanied Jesus from Galilee and had ministered to him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Later that evening, a rich man arrived from Arimathea. His name was Joseph, and he had become a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, and Pilate ordered it to be done. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. Then he placed it in his own new tomb, which he had cut out of the rock. After rolling a large stone across the door of the tomb, he left, but Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained there, sitting in front of the tomb. 
When Jesus died, very few friends were there.  But these were, and they were not ashamed to be called His friend. This, of course, made them suspect.  Especially Joseph, who was sacrificing a lot to even be there, let alone give Him his grave.  He would lose face with this Pharisee friends, who had done all they could to get Jesus on the cross.  What are we willing to sacrifice to be called a "friend of Jesus, a Jesus fanatic, faithful and true?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Power to Open...

Matthew 27:51-54 Suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth shook, rocks were split open, tombs were opened, and many saints who had died were brought back to life. After his resurrection, they came out of their tombs, went into the Holy City, and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those guarding Jesus with him saw the earthquake and the other things that were taking place, they were terrified and said, “This man certainly was the Son of God!” 
Jesus has the power to open that which was closed.  At His Incarnation, He came and opened up the heavens after a long period of seeming silence.  Angels appeared, stars shone, God's Glory was revealed in a way we could see and hear.  The same happened at Jesus' death: the curtain keeping us away was torn, the graves were opened, and the mouths of many spoke in testimony to His Great power.  God has an open-door policy: Jesus opened the door and asks us to open our lives to Him.  It's like those adjoining motel rooms with doors on both sides.  He has opened His side and is knocking to see if we will open ours.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Anticlimatic? Depends what you're looking for...

Matthew 27:45-50 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. About three o’clock, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, eli, lema sabachthani?”, which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the people standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling for Elijah.” So one of the men ran off at once, took a sponge, and soaked it in some sour wine. Then he put it on a stick and offered Jesus a drink. But the others kept saying, “Wait! Let’s see if Elijah will come and save him.” Then Jesus cried out with a loud voice again and died. 
Jesus had drawn a crowd, like the latest reality show, with every watching every detail.  They wanted to be wowed by something they saw first hand.  After all, they had missed the supposed miracles, and this man wasn't saying much for an itinerant preacher.  What would they see? What would they hear?
In this spectator sport there was no thrill, unless you are looking not at Him as the one having a need, but you.  It makes all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Surrounded by scorning sinners...

Matthew 27:38-44 At that time two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left. Those who passed by kept insulting him, shaking their heads, and saying, “You who were going to destroy the sanctuary and rebuild it in three days—save yourself! If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross!” In the same way the high priests, along with the scribes and elders, were also making fun of him. They kept saying, “He saved others but can’t save himself! He is the king of Israel. Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him, if he wants to do so now. After all, he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” In a similar way, the bandits who were being crucified with him kept insulting him. 
Everywhere He looked, all Jesus could see and hear was people mocking Him, using the charges against Him as insults: "if you are so powerful, deliver yourself; if you are King, come down; if you and God are so close, why isn't He saving You?"  Who would go out of their way, out of town, to show up and do this?  People who want to feel better about themselves.  We thrill in others' pain; we feel self-vindicated by others' misfortune.  We even want God to look like a "failure" so we can be imperfect.   We are unable to see deeper and beyond, in time and depth, to a God who loves, is in control, and is working out His plan.  Such words will come back to us.   As we look in the manger, may we also look at the cross, and see the same innocence, love and awesome plan that only God could imagine.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Government-sponsored Public Displays at Christmas

Matthew 27:32-37 As they were leaving, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, whom they forced to carry Jesus’ cross. When they came to a place called Golgotha which means “Skull Place”, they offered him a drink of wine mixed with gall. But when he tasted it, he refused to drink it. After they had crucified him, they determined who would get his clothes by throwing dice for them. Then they sat down there and continued guarding him. Above his head they placed the charge against him. It read, “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” 
Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, the underlying theme has been: "Prepare to Receive Your King!" The Jewish leaders have been trying to keep this hidden as much as possible, doing all they can to snuff out and stamp out the Truth - both what and Who that is.  They seem to be succeeding, yet the Gentile leaders do this: they put up a sign publicly displaying that Jesus is King. This is a flashback to when He first came, when other Gentiles came to call Him King.  Here too, however, they fall short, because this King is also their King; He is Lord of all.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Playing Games...

 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. (Matthew 27:27-31 ESV)
These soldiers who were entrusted with the execution of Jesus seemed to have one view of Him: He was a game to play with.  There they were, stuck with overtime duty during a crowded season, during the Holy Days of the Jewish people, and not a lot of night life.  None of them seem to even question: "Could He actually be a King?"  But the same happens in our season of crowds as well.  Christmas can become nothing more than a game we play: Who can make the best cookies, get the best deals, buy the best presents, decorate the most distinctively?  What this time really should be is a celebration: The King has come, and I choose to allow Him to be Who He really is: the king of me.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

dirty hands...

Matthew 27:24-26 Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that a riot was about to break out instead. So he took some water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Attend to that yourselves.” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and our children!” Then he released Barabbas for them, but he had Jesus whipped and handed over to be crucified. 
Pilate had tried everything he could to convince the people to NOT crucify Jesus.  But the final say was his.  The "washing of the hands" was a Biblical principle for the case of a corpse of a  person who had been murdered but no one knew who did it.  Here they knew exactly who was doing it, and the act had not yet been committed - it was preventable.  There were no innocent hands.  They were all dirty, including Pilate's.

Friday, December 12, 2014

No way around it...

 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”(Matthew 27:15-23 ESV)
Pilate kept looking for ways to both appease the people and to spare a man he found to be innocent. He tried every trick in the book of crowd-pleasers, but it came down to his choice. There is no way around it.  Faced with the truth, and Jesus is Truth, we must each one account for our own response to Christ: turn on Him, abandon Him, or trust in Him and follow Him.  That choice does not always please the crowd, but it is ours to make.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Surprising Silence...

Matthew 27:11-14 Meanwhile, Jesus was made to stand in front of the governor. The governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”Jesus said, “You say so.” While Jesus was being accused by the high priests and elders, he made no reply. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear how many charges they’re bringing against you?” But Jesus did not reply at all, so that the governor was very surprised. 
The religious leaders accused Jesus of being a revolutionary, who claimed to be King.  Pilate was not shocked.  They then piled up all sorts of additional far-fetched charges.  He was not stunned. What took him by surprise was Jesus' response to all this: calm silence.  Why? Somewhere in the midst of those charges and accusations was a nugget of truth exposed, waiting to be mined.  Will Pilate find it? What will he do with it if he does?  When we are falsely accused one of our best defenses can be silence.  Not that we never speak out, but that we let the truth be "heard", and found out by people who really care what the truth is.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holy Hypocrisy!!!

Matthew 27:6-10 The high priests picked up the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put this into the Temple treasury, because it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the Potter’s Field as a burial ground for foreigners. That is why that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what had been declared through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled when he said,“They took the 30 pieces of silver,the value of the man on whom a price had been set by the Israelis, and they gave them for the potter’s field,as the Lord commanded me.” 
The council had a problem - money thrown into the temple.  They were too self-righteous to accept this gift; after all, it had be gotten by agreement to betray an innocent man.  They had to find some "good work" to us it for, so they did not defile the temple ministry.  But where had the money come from? Them, taken from the temple treasury.  They were the ones who took God's money and turned it into "blood money."  How hypocritical is that? How do we do the same thing???

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The power of guilt...

Matthew 27:3-5 Then Judas, who had betrayed him, regretted what had happened when he saw that Jesus was condemned. He brought the 30 pieces of silver back to the high priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”But they replied, “What do we care? Attend to that yourself.” Then he flung the pieces of silver into the sanctuary, went outside, ran away, and hanged himself. 
Judas had made his choice - money over the master, stuff over the spiritual.  He had betrayed his truest Friend.  It brought overwhelming guilt.  But rather than go to the One he had offended most, he went to those who were accomplices with him, and they could not forgive; they would not forgive.  This added anger to his guilt the resulted in the greatest self-destruction.   Oh, the power of guilt that God is willing and able to overcome, if we will turn to him, and not depend on ourselves.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Railroaded Justice

Matthew 27:1-2 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. 
These leaders had not even slept a full night on their decision.  They came back to figure out how to get Jesus dead that day.  They had to get Roman approval to do so, and they deliver Him to Pilate as if they were doing him a favor, having captured some dangerous criminal.  Though it seems almost unbelievable that they would do so, the same kinds of things often happen today.  We often judge others ahead of time and want them to pay.  Not that we personally have been harmed, (thought that may be exactly the problem - we were offended), but more often if the other person looks bad, we can "feel better" about ourselves.  Jesus had made these leaders look pretty lame, even untrustworthy. They wanted to look and feel better about themselves, even if that meant denying the truth.  Which is more important to you: your feelings or the truth?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Going down... Steps two and three...

 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
(Matthew 26:71-75 ESV)
Having played dumb, Peter has set himself up for the successive traps of failure.  Rather than admitting his error, his sin, he digs in to demand he is telling the truth. His resolve to not abandon his Lord has now become resolve to not admit his guilt.  When challenged on this, he seeks to remove all doubt, with cursing and stronger anger - surefire ways in our society to try to convince people of our "sincerity".  The people were not fooled; neither was the rooster.  And thus Peter brought great sorrow to himself and his Master.  How much sorrow will we bring today by our own stubborn sin?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Going Down, step one...

Matthew 26:69-70 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 
Peter had vowed fidelity vehemently.  Though he was as cowardly as the others, at least he tagged along to see what would happen.  But he had hoped to blend in with the crowd.  Then she saw him.  This first incinuation that he was "one of them" is met with playing dumb, feigning ignorance, acting as if "I have no idea what you are talking about."  It is the first step down - not actually "lying" or denying, just plain dumb.  Like any of our failures, it sets us up for a series of successive sins.  Let's avoid all these poor "first steps" today.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Blasphemy or Truth?

Matthew 26:65-68 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” 
The capital crime of which the Sanhedrin convicted Jesus was blasphemy - the ultimate irreverence toward God.  Their accusations were true, unless what He said was true - the He was God the Son, the Messiah, with authority not only here on earth, to drive scum out of the temple, but also authority in heaven - to sit at God's right hand, to rule, and to judge.  He indeed was innocent, because He was being totally truthful.  His claims on us will only seem to be the highest insult to our intelligence and humanity if we fail to realize He is all He says He is.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Confession

Matthew 26:62-64 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 
During this interrogation by the High Priest, Jesus is being badgered to make a confession - to say something that will be evidence of a capital crime, worthy of death.  But Jesus didn't have to brag. He waits until someone finally gets the facts straight.  Then He comments: "You've got it! I am the Messiah!"  That is all the evidence they need, but He does not stop there. He realizes that what He means by that, and what His accusers mean by that are two different things.  Since He is the Messiah, His current situation, being bound and abused, is only temporary.  He will show His authority, at the right hand of God, and then in Judgment.  They will indeed be able to see that He is the King.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Twisted Testimony...

Matthew 26:57-61 He said to him, “You have said so.” Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 
The Sanhedrin did all they could to find two witnesses to agree, but were having trouble finding anyone who could tell the truth.  Finally, they found two to agree, but with a twisted view of what Jesus had said.  He had said "(You)" tear down this temple and in three days I will rebuild it."  He did so foretelling what they would do to Him, not what He would do to the temple building.  But of course, they had no comprehension of what He was saying; their eyes were blinded.  That's where we often get into trouble - the connection between our eyes and ears and our mouths.  What goes in gets all twisted, and what comes out is only a semblance of the truth.  May we listen with believing hearts and see with the eyes of faith, so we can give a true testimony of what God has really said.