Thursday, April 30, 2015

You can have it too!

1 John 1:3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 
With a passionate heart, John had something he fervently wanted to share - something he both knew and had experienced, that he believed was real and vital.  Fellowship.  What a watered down word that has become.   We tend to associate it with food and informal gatherings. It is even less than it was before the Holy Spirit gave it special meaning. Before the   Church became the congregation of fellowship, the term meant more or less a sharing in a common interest or goal.  But with the Church, it became so much more.  This sharing was not only sharing with a group of people; it was sharing with Almighty God and His Eternal Son.  It involves a binding to one another that reaches to our thoughts, motives, words and actions.  There is an intensity of sharing with the Divine Godhead and His people that enriches life like no other relationship can.  When we truly understand what "church" and "fellowship" are, it sends chills down our spine.  May we be drawn closer in that fellowship today.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

This is THE LIFE...

1 John 1:2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 
Jesus had proclaimed that He was "the Way, the Truth and The Life" (John 14:6).  In this letter, John focuses a lot on the last title: The Life.  The Life is eternal; He has always existed with the Father and has now appeared on earth.  John saw Him and is going to tell us more about Him.  As "the Life", He is the one who gives life to all of us; it is through Him that we can have eternal life.  John will tell us a lot about Christ: His deity, incarnation and humanity, but the first thing He wants us to realize this: if we want life - real life, Christ is the one we come to and through.  There is no other...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Examining Christ with all our senses...

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
As John begins his letter, he invites us to join him in the examination room, as if we were a medical examiner or other professional.  To do our job well, we must engage every facility.  Looking is very important, and John will use more than one term to refer to that.  But for us in our society, we wrongly equate seeing and believing, and there is much more than meets the eye.  Our seeing must include the microscope to look more closely, and we need to learn to listen to the patient, or to the one who has been with the patient or victim to describe what they were experiencing.  And we must handle the evidence - not just look at it.  How closely have you looked at all the evidence of Who Christ is?  How engaged have you been in the examining room with those who know Him well?  There is a story to hear, to see, to touch, and to become a part of.  That is doing church.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Powerful speech, more powerful silence...

James 1:19-21 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 
We see it every day - emotions vented on social media.  That's what it's for, right?  Social media is a very powerful tool - for good, and evil.  We find it easier to write things than to call people up and say them.  We are free to express ourselves... or is it a bondage?   Words that hurt, words that divide, words that cannot be taken back.  James is used by God to tell us that many of our words need to be viewed for what they really are - moral filth - sinful slime shooting out from our sinful hearts - selfish and self-righteous reactions to life and those we are supposed to love.  May there be less speech, more thoughtful speech, silence first, then something said that really matters.

Monday, April 13, 2015

True Holiness

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

(Revelation 2:1-5 ESV)
As Christ addressed the seven churches - true historical churches, but also churches like them throughout history, and those of us who are a part of them, His first concern is not so much what we do, but what our relationship with Him is.  Do we have that passionate love.  He asks us, like Peter at the sea: "Do you love me?"  We can be doing all the right things, and abhoring all the wrong things, without loving Christ.  May we sing from our hearts today that last verse of "Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart":
Teach me to love you as your angels love, 
one holy passion filling all my frame: 
the fullness of the heaven-descended Dove; 
my heart an altar, and your love the flame. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Worshipping and waiting...

Matthew 28:16-20 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 
The disciples went to Galilee, just as Jesus had instructed.  They all knew it the appropriate response was to worship Him, even though they still did not have everything figured out.  Then they waited: "what are we here for?  What instructions will He give us?"  I'm pretty sure Jesus said much more, but Matthew summarizes: make more followers - go and tell them, depending on the Holy Spirit to guide and empower you.  May we worship the risen Christ as well, without the waiting.  His call to us  is the same - go and tell.

Friday, April 10, 2015

When we truly understand...

Luke 24:45-49 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 
Seeing is not believing.  Even when the disciples saw the risen Christ - at least three times, they still did not have it all put together. Christ had to open their hearts and minds to what it all meant, and what He then expected from them, and from us.  The message of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ must be proclaimed.  Implied in the action is our reaction.  Go and tell.  Provided with this expectation is the provision of the Holy Spirit to embolden and guide us in our telling.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How Rumors start...

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (John 21:20-23 ESV)
Peter was having a discussion with Jesus - pointed to him, but overheard by the others. Then the old telephone game began: as the story was passed from one to another it became a little bit twisted.  But that is not the core issue here; the main point is that Peter was not to compare his ministry to that of others.  Peter and John, though often close together, would not always be able to stay with each other.  Christ had different goals and places for them.  They would share much during the opening days of the church, but where they would go and what they would experience would be very different. We are all called to do different things, and that does not mean we will be weird or different in a bad way, but that God is sovereign and creative and wanting to use us in His way for His glory.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Following the shepherd...

John 21:15-19 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” 
Peter had to be almost fearfully awaiting this moment - their first conversation about his failure to follow Jesus as he had promised the night Christ was betrayed.  But Jesus wanted to make it very clear what He meant when He pressed Peter on his allegiance.  He was not asking him to pull out his sword and conquer the world for Chist.  He was not asking Peter to join Him as He ascended to heaven. He was asking Him to look at people the way He does - as sheep needing a shepherd, and to lovingly lead them to His fold, to the place of spiritual safety and pasture.  It was quite a change from "the son of thunder" who wanted to call down fire on unbelievers.  That fire of judgment will come on all who fail to respond in faith.  Our call is to compel them to instead come to faith in Christ and be saved.  Let us follow and look for more followers.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Repetition Reinforces

John 21:10-14 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. 
John goes to great pains to say that this was the third time Jesus appeared to His disciples.  He kept coming back; it was finally sinking in - Christ is risen indeed!  Jesus repeated other things as well. The abundant catch was something they had seen before - that they would recognize as being done by The Lord.  The Loaves and the Fish, though a common meal, had a special place in their memory, as they had seen Jesus feed thousands on an oversized snack.  Christ was impressing on them, and on us - yes, this is very real.  He has risen, and He invites us to join Him, fellowship with Him, trust Him, and wait to hear what His next step for us is.  We can count on Him to be there.

Monday, April 6, 2015

smells fishy to me...

John 21:1-9 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas also known as Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”“No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him for he had taken it off and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. 
Jesus had promised to give His life for His friends.  He did.  He had also promised to rise again. He did. He also had told them He would meet them in Galilee, on their home turf, in their everyday life.  Yet they seemed shocked when He kept His word.  But when Peter finally gets it, he's all in (literally, in the water.)  Jesus has done it again - repeated a miracle, which confirms in their hearts and minds that this is no coincidence, this is no hallucination.  Jesus is here, keeping His word.  The smell of fish is in the air, and that's a good thing.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Getting take-home today...

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. (John 20:1-10 ESV)
Today is Resurrection Day!  He is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  It is the first day of new life.  When Peter, John and Mary went to that empty tomb, they came away, they went home changed.  May we come to that tomb, and the One who was no longer there, today, and come away changed as well.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

What will it take for you to believe?

Luke 24:33-41, 43 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” and he took it and ate it in their presence. 
These men had seen all the wonders Christ had done, including raising Lazarus from the dead. They had heard the report of the women, especially Mary, that the tomb was empty and Jesus was risen.  The two followers who met Him on the road to Emmaus have now brought their report, and even as they speak, He appears and speaks familiar words.  Yet, they thought they saw a ghost.  Even stronger than their fear was their doubt.  He invited them to investigate the physical evidence: His own body.  They still had trouble believing.  Finally, like many believers, it boils down to food.  Maybe that will be a good time for us to sit and let it all sink in - at the breakfast after the Sunrise service.  May it really sink in - He is Risen Indeed!  All He said is true.  He Himself is Truth and Life.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Busy minds... burning hearts...

Luke 24:13-32 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked.“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 
YES, I KNOW IT's A VERY LONG SCRIPTURE PASSAGE TODAY.  But there's a reason.  Most students have the day off... some people will get off early... we still have some semblance in society that today is special.  Indeed, it should be the most thought-provoking day of the year.  We need to be taking time to stop and think about the truth of Good Friday and the whole Passion Week scenario.  These two spent time wrestling with the scriptures and talking with Jesus about what it all means.  May we do the same.  May our hearts burn.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Curious enough...

Luke 24:9-12 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. 
Throughout His ministry, Jesus had made a lot of comments to make His disciples curious - to get them to ask questions to find out more... to stretch their faith.  When He rose from the dead, that also created a great deal of curiosity.  Fortunately, it was not idle curiousity.  Peter (and John) went for themselves to see the empty tomb.  Though Peter did not fully believe, or put it all together immediately, He wondered, he let His curiosity move him.  If the tomb is empty, what does that mean for me?  If Christ is risen, what are the implications for my life, for all His followers, and for the world?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Prepared, Perplexed, Prodded

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. 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.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. (Luke 24:1-9 ESV)
This is the most eventful and memorable day in human history to this point.  We do well to identify with the women and the rush of thoughts and emotions they went through that resurrection day: They went prepared, but were very unprepared for what they encountered.  They were rightly perplexed: what a rush of emotions and thoughts they experienced in a matter of moments. And they were prodded to remember, to go and to tell.  May we have the same experience as we look back on that great event and consider how it matters to us.