Archive for February, 2017

The Paradox of Three Ladies Named Mary

February 27, 2017

A paradox has been defined as a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth, or any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature. In the article 20 Paradoxes That Give Us Wisdom and Perspective, Briana Johnson wrote “Paradoxes may seem logically impossible, but they’re often true. Paradoxes reveal the essence of the human condition, while pushing us to question what’s really true. From everyday tips to poignant life lessons, paradoxes can teach us how to navigate the world in a wiser fashion.” One example Ms. Johnson lists is “We don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone.” She says, “It is an unfortunate tendency, but sometimes we can’t recognize the value of something until we notice its absence. You probably wouldn’t be thankful for your roof unless it collapsed one day. It takes effort to appreciate what you already have because it’s hard to imagine life without it.”

Today, I want to share a paradox from the Word of God – The Paradox of Three Ladies Named Mary.

Miriam in the Hebrew is Miryam (mēr·yäm’) which means “rebellion”. We know from Numbers and 1 Chronicles that Moses had a sister named Miriam. In Numbers 12, Miriam rebelled against Moses’ leadership, and God judged her with leprosy as a result of her rebellion.  Mariam is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Miriam from which “Mary” is derived. Considering this context, there are some interesting dynamics that surface in Mark 15.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

In the gospels, there are three women who are named are named Mary who were watching Jesus on the cross (Mark 15:40,41;Matthew 27:55,56; Luke 23:49; John 19:25). The Paradox of Three Ladies Named Mary is about three Maries. John 19:25 specifically states “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”- Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary, the mother of James, and Mary Magdalene.

The bible does not tell us much about Mary the wife of Clopas. Other than being a wife and mother, the text seems to convey that she is the sister of Jesus’ mother Mary. We do know that she was the mother of two children one of whom Jesus chose as an apostle, namely, James (Matthew 27:55-61; Mark 15:40, 47; 16:1; Luke 24:10, see Luke 23:49-56). What is most important is that she followed Jesus. Mary Magdalene, who had been cleansed of seven demons, was also following Jesus.

Of the multitude of people standing near the cross during Jesus’ crucifixion, it is of particular interest that God highlights three women named Mary. I do not believe that is a coincidence that the three women who are named are named Mary. I believe that God is conveying The Paradox of Three Ladies Named Mary. 

Mary, being derived from Miriam, seems to connote rebellion. Despite the meaning of their name, their lives reflect a different truth. They were cited in the Word of God by the Holy Spirit as ardent followers of Christ. Obviously, the chief priests, teachers of the law, those in the crowd who shouted “Crucify Him” and Pilate are all apart of the rebellious clan indicative of mankind. Despite that, God shows His redemptive power in The Paradox of Three Ladies Named Mary. Mary, the mother of Jesus, followed Him to the end. She did not rebel when the God told her she would conceive a child without being married. She faithfully accepted what God communicated to her and has the honor forever of being charged with loving and caring for the Savior of the World. The other two Maries have lives reflective of the redemption of God. Mary, the mother of James, followed Jesus along with her two sons. They were apart of the Apostolic ministry after Jesus ascension. Lastly, after being healed of seven demons, Mary Magdalene followed Jesus. Her life was devoted to following Christ during His ministry hear on earth. That is The Paradox of Three Ladies Named Mary. 

The Paradox of Three Ladies Named Mary serves as notice to us that we need to commit ourselves to following Jesus despite the meaning of our names, where we are from or who we were before meeting Christ. The lesson is that we too will be honored by God for honoring Jesus with our service. Here is a paradox that Jesus shared – “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:35 Preserve your life by living for Jesus.

Life Beyond the Curtain

February 24, 2017

In modern times, curtains play an important role in our lives. Curtains are used as an accessory in decorating one’s home. People use them to pull out or accentuate their color schemes. Also, curtains play a vital utilitarian role. When my brother lived in Alaska, he shared with me that many people purchased extra-thick curtains with liners to help block out the light during the time of the year that light shone for almost 24 hours. We all know that curtains are used for privacy. They are intended to keep those on the outside out, from peering into our lives seeing what only those on the inside were privy.

In Mark 15 after Jesus’ death, we see a change in the role of the temple curtain. We see a Life Beyond the Curtain.

Mark 15

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

In the Old Testament before the temple was built, the Israelites were nomadic. They lived in temporary housing like tents. Since God selected them as His chosen people, God provided instructions on how the priests, only select ones, could meet with Him. God would meet with them in the tent of the congregation or the tent of meeting. It is also called the tabernacle. Whether congregation, meeting, tabernacle or temple, all signified a place of God’s dwelling and dwelling among His people. It was the place where a few priest could go in at select times of the year to meet with God. In those places, the curtain was instrumental in separating spaces and articles of importance like the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was the most important symbol of the Jewish faith, and served as the only physical manifestation of God on earth. The Ark contained most notably the Ten Commandments. I say all this to say that there were curtains in the tent that shielded the Ark. It separated God’s presence from man. During that time, man did not live a Life Beyond the Curtain. He was separated from the full presence of God.

Without going too much further, you should know that the curtain separated almost all the Israelites from God. When Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. The fact that it started at the top reveals that God initiated the tearing. The significance is that God, through Christ’s death, was now inviting all man to have an intimate personal relationship with Him. God was inviting man to live Life Beyond the Curtain. Through Christ, there would be no more separation from God. Man could enter into the most holiest place, the presence of God, through Jesus. Before, only a select few priest could do that only at certain times of year. Now, as 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God.” God conveys that as one surrenders his/her life to Jesus that the Spirit of God comes into him/her and dwells in them which is the true meaning of Life Beyond the Curtain.

Earlier in Mark 15, the text says “29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” “The temple that Jesus spoke of raising in three days was his body. We know He did rise from the grave. Now, as then, He invites us to live a Life Beyond the Curtain.

God, through Christ Jesus, is inviting you to live Life Beyond the Curtain. God desires to have an intimate personal relationship with you, but you must accept and respond to His invitation of an intimate personal relationship. There will come a day when God will separate the sheep, those who know Him personally, from the goats, those who do not know Him personally. That separation will be eternal.

Matthew 31-34,41

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world….41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

The Centurion soldier saw Jesus’ death and no longer experienced a life of separation. He symbolizes that God was offering salvation to all. He offers it to you. Live Life Beyond the Curtain. Follow Jesus now!

 

 

 

Jesus’ Last Cry

February 23, 2017

Through all the beatings, mocking, disbelief, dividing up his clothes and general harsh treatment while on the cross, Luke 23:34 tells us that Jesus was committed to reconciling man to God until the end. Jesus said, “Father,forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Even with those words, they were not Jesus’ Last Cry.

In my readings, I have learned that most who were crucified spent their last hours in complete exhaustion or unconsciousness before death. Jesus was not like that. Despite being tremendously tortured and weakened, The LORD was conscious and able to speak right up to the moment of His death when we see Jesus’ Last Cry.

Mark 15

36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

Matthew 27

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

Luke 23
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

John 19
28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

In each of the accounts from the four gospels, three state that He gave a loud cry. Two state that He breathed His last breath. Two others state He gave up His Spirit. John tells us that Jesus said “It is finished” before He gave us His Spirit.

What can we learn from Jesus’ Last Cry? Jesus, until the very end, was committed to giving His Spirit and Soul into God’s hands. Jesus shows us that all of our thoughts and actions should be yielded unto God until our very last breath. What a way to meet our Maker. We are thinking or speaking to Him in the flesh; then as we pass from death to life, we enter into His presence with our last act as a form of worship through obedience. The loud voice conveys that Jesus fought hard to the end and how committed He was to the task of reconciling man to God. “It is finished” says to us that I have completed the task Father. Jesus’ Last Cry was a modern day drop the mic moment. His death on the cross spoke louder than anything else that could be spoken. Jesus demonstrates that whatever we do for God do it with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. If we can’t do anything, we can cry out. which in my experience from the Word and from my life ensures that God comes to my rescue.

Jesus’ Last Cry was the very means for man to be rescued from the wrath of God. “13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.Colossians 1:13-14 Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. 1 Thessalonians 1:10

That was Jesus’ Last Cry. What will you do with your last cry?

I am Forgiven because He was Forsaken

February 22, 2017

There is a cost to everything that we receive. While we may not pay for it out of our own means, that does not mean that it was truly free or cheap. From something as simple as breakfast biscuits at work to salvation, it cost someone to provide us those benefits. That is so true of our salvation through Jesus Christ. I am Forgiven because He was Forsaken.

I am Forgiven because He was Forsaken is seen in the passage from Mark 15 below. We see the culminating acts of Jesus’ incarnation in the passage. By this time, He had already been crucified. He was on the cross. Mark tells us some things that happened. Let’s get to it.

Mark 15

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

I am Forgiven because He was Forsaken. Verse one tells us that Jesus’ road to the cross began early in the morning. It was probably around 6 a.m. based on the account of how time is communicated in the passage (see NKJV). The third hour equates to 9 a.m. which is why I stated that Jesus’ journey to the cross started at or around 6 a.m. By 9, He had been flogged with a whip that contained bone which tore open His back. He had been mocked for being King. He was made to carry His cross part of the way.

Now in the passage above, we learn three hours after Jesus had been nailed to the cross that darkness came over the whole land. There has been some debate whether that was an eclipse. That has been refuted because the Passover occurs during a full moon where the earth is between sun and the moon making a solar eclipse impossible. I am not a cosmologist, so that is not the focus of what I am examining. The text tells us that darkness came over the land until three in the afternoon. I do know and believe that God caused this phenomenon to illuminate that I am Forgiven because He was Forsaken.

It is at three in the afternoon that Jesus “cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).” Why did Jesus say that? Why did Jesus say that God abandoned or deserted Him? From what I have read and been told Jesus was experiencing separation from God because the sins of man were upon Him. It was during this time that Jesus ever experience a darkness from the absence of His light as the Son. He had become the sin offering for man. He was completely cut off from God. Jesus handled being betrayed by Judas and disowned by Peter, but being separated from God was too much. It was anguish for His soul. Proverbs 18:14 says, “The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?”  What was going on? As He constantly did, Jesus was fulfilling prophecy. In Psalm 22, David foretells of Christ’s experience which Jesus quotes.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest. tells us.

Psalm 10:1 says, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Jesus was alone for the first and only time in eternity or in time. Because God cannot look on sin, God separated Himself from Jesus. Jesus was experiencing being away from God. I know we can’t really relate, but just image all the love you have for the people you most love; then, you are separated from them. In essence, they are dead. You have no more benefit from being in their presence. That is a pretty poor example, but it was the best that I could give you to illustrate I am Forgiven because He was Forsaken.

Jesus willingly experienced being separated from God. He died separated from God. How horrible would it to be totally alone in death. That is what Jesus experienced. He was all alone because of our sin, but it was necessary in order for man to have forgiveness of his sins. Some have proposed that the darkness was symbolic of being out of the light of God. Jesus was not in God’s presence when the sins of the world were placed upon Him. Again, I am sure that this is too wonderful for me to fully grasp, but I do know what it means to be alone and feel the anguish of being cut off from people I love dearly. I am Forgiven because He was Forsaken.

Your forgiveness was wrought through Christ being forsaken. Since He gave up everything for us, isn’t He worth you giving up everything for Him? That should be a resounding YES! Despite that, we, in our sin, are so selfish that we want our cake, salvation, and eat it too, to live life as we desire, our sin. God is calling us all to surrender our will to His. “14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15  “21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21I am Forgiven because He was Forsaken.

TRUST: When God Does Not Act On Time

February 20, 2017

Time is a relative concept. For man, time is a fixed quantity beginning with our birth and ending with our death.  A. W. Tozer wrote “God dwells in eternity but time dwells in God.” God is eternal. He is self-existing and existed before time began, in time and after time ends. This is a concept that we should remember in Moments of Faith. We should TRUST: When God Does Not Act On Time. Since God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours, it is reasonable to conclude that God has a different time table than man, and His timing is better than ours.

TRUST: When God Does Not Act On Time. John 11 is one classic case . Ir is where Jesus did not immediately come to Lazarus’ aid when word was sent to Him that Lazarus was sick. In our thinking, if we get the call that our loved one is sick and we can do something about it, we leave immediately. Jesus did not. This is what He said. “When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”” Jesus’ time table was different because His ways and thoughts were higher. It was about God be glorified through it, so what we would naturally do isn’t the path when God’s glory is the ultimate goal. 

With that in mind, we should be able to truly TRUST: When God Does Not Act On Time. Let’s see the most poignant example in the life of Jesus.

Mark 15

27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. [28]  29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel,come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

The criminals, chief priests, and teachers of the law all mocked Jesus because His time table did not match theirs. They did not have TRUST or faith in Him. In fact, they demanded that Jesus act in their time in order for them to believe. Jesus cannot and will not be manipulated to act in and on our time frame. Why? God’s glory is His ultimate goal. God has His own time table.  TRUST: When God Does Not Act On Time. Instead of trusting, look at what the people did – they insulted Jesus. I can only imagine the scene or the commentary. OMG, SMH and LOL were observed in the passage. Mocking or insulting Jesus is the normal course of action when one does not TRUST Him – When God Does Not Act On Time.

Is there a circumstance you are facing now where it appears that God has not acted in time? Does it feel like God has abandoned or forsaken you? Are you wondering why has God stepped in and done something about your situation? I urge you to TRUST: When God Does Not Act On Time. God is at work and He seeks to gain glory for Himself. The principle from Lazarus’ death and resurrection is that God desires to be glorified through your circumstance. TRUST God in the midst of what may be a horrible experience. The criminals, chief priests and teachers of the law questioned whether Jesus could save Himself, whether He could destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. Not only did Jesus save Himself, He did it in away that proved His deity. He died and raised Himself in three days just as He proclaimed He would. He showed that He truly was God and the King of the Jews.

When God Does Not Act On Time, what will you do?  

For followers of Christ, Colossians 3:1 tells us what we must do. ” Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Place of Death Becomes a Place of Life

February 17, 2017

We say and hear many well wishes for life. For example, we may hear “‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!” Who can only grant and preserve life? Most of the living would agree that God can only grant and preserve life. The bible conveys that is God alone who grants and preserve life.

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,
… For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
“See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.
1 Kings 17:20-22
20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” 22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.
1 Kings 20:42
He said to the king, “This is what the Lord says: ‘You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.’
As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”
I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”
You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

For what hope have the godless when they are cut off, when God takes away their life?

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

He asked you for life, and you gave it to him— length of days, for ever and ever.

The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

How long, Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions.

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.
I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the Lord.’”
This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Mark 1:30-31
30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
Mark 5:22-24,35-42
22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him…35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” 36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” 37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the handand said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.
Mark 10:17
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Mark 10:45
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Proverbs 14:27
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

In Mark’s account, Jesus had shown that He could grant life. We see that in Mark 1, Mark 5 and Mark 10 as written above. Mark 15:21-26

21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. 25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.

Now, we see Jesus granting life again as The Place of Death Becomes a Place of Life. Golgotha is the name of a place outside Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified; so called, apparently because its form resembled a skull. Furthermore, others have conjectured that this is the place where many other crucifixions have taken place including the two criminals who were also crucified on the same day as Jesus. Others have proposed that this was the same place where Adam was buried, so it would be fitting that the last Adam would die there too. Why is that interesting? Romans 5:12 tells us “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” 1 Corinthians 15:22 explains the context. It says, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” Sin entered into the world through Adam’s sin. Life entered into the world through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. “So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.” 1 Corinthians 15:45

Through Jesus, Golgotha The Place of Death Becomes a Place of Life. After raising Lazarus, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; ” John 11:25  “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” Romans 5:17

The Place of Death Becomes a Place of Life. In John 17:3, Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” It is through Jesus that we are reconciled to God and experience life. Colossians 1:21-23 says, “21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:” 2 Corinthians 5:18

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. The Place of Death Becomes a Place of Life. Like Jesus, God is calling you to your own Golgotha. Die to yourself and live for eternity in His presence.

Are You Compelled to Carry the Cross of Christ

February 13, 2017

As one who has worked with adolescents or preadolescents for nearly 30 years, peer pressure has been front and center in my life. In fact, from my childhood to adulthood, I saw that all people experience peer pressure. There are times in one’s life where the need to be accepted or to fit in compels him/her to do things that he/she would not ordinarily do. Then, there are times, albeit very rare, when a person is physically forced to do something that he or she would not do. It is a circumstance of being compelled to act. We will face two types of compulsion in our lives: being forced out of fear or being encouraged out of love. How will you live your life?

Are You Compelled to Carry the Cross of Christ? In the biblical account of Simon from Cyrene, Simon represents one who was forced to do something he had not planned. He was coming into town for the Passover, but to carry Jesus’ cross was never on his mind. While that is most assuredly true, God chose him to be the one to carry Jesus’ cross. He represents that person who seemingly gets involved in affairs that they never intended; yet, they live on through God involving them in the Father’s affairs.

Mark 15

21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. crf

Are You Compelled to Carry the Cross of Christ? Truth be told, none of us, in and of ourselves, would choose anything related to serving God. Isaiah 53:6 proves it when God says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;” As people, we do not choose God. He chooses us. Luke 10:22 says, “22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.””

When He chooses you, the Word tells us the answer to Are You Compelled to Carry the Cross of Christ?  14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) This compulsion is different from being forced. It is more of an urging or impelling of our spirit by the Spirit of God. God’s love, through Christ’s sacrifice, moves the believer to action. In fact, it is the requirement as a follower of Christ to carry not Jesus’ cross but our own. In Mark 8:34 Jesus says, “34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Because He gave us His all, He requires us to give Him our all. We must be willing to give up our lives for His just as He gave up His for our life. Are You Compelled to Carry the Cross of Christ?  Please consider these passages as you assess your response to that question.

1 Corinthians 9:25
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

We have to be mindful of what we are sacrificing for – eternal life and a life that is honoring and pleasing to God that results in His praise, glory and honor. We are sacrificing our lives, hopes, dreams, wants and desires to receive the crowns from God. Are You Compelled to Carry the Cross of Christ?  By the power and grace of God, I can say that I am willing and have carried my cross. Join me in our journey to carry our own crosses as we die to ourselves in this life for a greater life now and after this one.

Jesus, In the House

February 9, 2017

According to Wikipedia, the Latin term praetorium — or prœtorium or pretorium — originally signified a general’s tent within a Roman castra, castellum, or encampment. It derived from the name of one of the chief Roman magistrates, the praetor.  In the Roman Empire, the Latin word castrum (plural castra) was a building, or plot of land, used as a fortified military camp. Castrum was the term used for different sizes of camps including a large legionary fortress, smaller auxiliary forts, temporary encampments and “marching” forts. The diminutive form castellum was used for fortlets, typically occupied by a detachment of a cohort or a century. The Romans originally used the term (praetorium) for a general’s tent in an army camp. The Bible in a variety of instances refers to the Praetorium as the “common hall,” the “governor’s house,” the “judgment hall,” “Pilate’s house,” and the “palace.”

This conveys that Jesus was in the inner most part of Pilate’s home. It was a protected and concealed part of the military camp i.e. where the guards convened maybe even resided. Jesus, In the House. This sets the scene for our next portion of text in

Mark 15

16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers.17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

The chief priests, elders, teachers of the law, the disciples or any general on looker did not have access to the Praetorium, but who did –Jesus, In the House.  To me, it further shows the depth of man’s sin and condemnation for its grievances against our Lord and God. Here we have the ultimate judge being judged by those whom they will eventually have to give account. They will have to answer for calling out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” for striking him on the head again and again with a staff and for spitting on him, for mocking Him by falling on their knees as if they really were paying homage to him, for mocking His royalty and kingship as they  took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him and lastly, for leading him out to be crucified.

Jesus, In the House. He went where others did not and could not go. Why? It was the place He had to go to in order for our salvation to be obtained. It was a part of the judgment handed down to him that we deserved for our sins. As for us, we have time to repent of our sins and believe the good news that God sent Jesus as Savior into the world to die for our sins, so we could be forgiven of our sins and escape the wrath of God for them. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”John 3:36

Jesus, In the House – will you be in His house? Listen to Jesus in John 14 to make an informed response to that question. ““Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

Don’t Be a People Pleaser

February 6, 2017

In Psychology Today, we are told “a People Pleaser is one of the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say “no.”  You can always count on them for a favor.  In fact, they spend a great deal of time doing things for other people. They get their work done, help others with their work, make all the plans, and are always there for family members and friends.  So far this sounds like a good thing.  Unfortunately, it can be an extremely unhealthy pattern of behavior.” Fear of rejection (pride/selfishness) is the underlying feeling that an individual succumbs to being a people pleaser. I am here to implore you Don’t Be a People Pleaser.

I am not advocating that we derail our lives from opportunities to attend to the needs of people around us. I am asking that we do not allow our desire to make others happy supersede our desire to please God. When we place yourself or people over God, you make unwise, bad and costly decisions. Don’t Be a People Pleaser. 

While one would not think of a ruler as a people pleaser, we see evidence of that in Mark 15 with Pontius Pilate.

Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.

14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Don’t Be a People Pleaser. In verse 10, we see that Pilate knew that the chief priests were seeking penalty for Jesus out of self-interest. He knew they were wrong not Jesus. Furthermore, “19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”” (Matthew 27) Despite knowing himself and the warning from his wife that Jesus was innocent, he faced a big decision – do I follow what is right or do I seek to please the people. God gave him, as He does all of us especially believers, a way out or a way to choose to the right thing.

Like Pilate, we will all face decisions that require us to choose between doing what is right or doing what pleases people. We fear their rejection greater than being rejected by God. Matthew 10:28 tells us “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” We know what to do, but we still languish in what to choose. Don’t Be a People Pleaser.

How did Pilate choose? First, Pilate ignored the truth that he knew. Secondly, he sought direction from the wrong source – from the people instead of God. Next, he ran through the warning he got not to be involved with Jesus’ death. Lastly, Pilate chose to please the people over pleasing God. The text tells us “15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” Don’t Be a People Pleaser.

Barabbas, a known killer and guilty man, was freed over Jesus. While it was wrong and unjust, God intended for all this to happen. ” I cannot say for certain, but I am pretty confident that Pilate did not repent of his sins. As a temporary judge, He will have to face the judge, Jesus, as an account for his sins. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,” 1 Peter 3:18 Despite that, I still maintain Don’t Be a People Pleaser, submit and surrender your life to God through Jesus’ sacrificial death to receive eternal life.

What Shall I do?

February 3, 2017

Life is filled with many instances of uncertainty where we ask What Shall I do? I remember reflecting on this as a young boy in elementary school when I read and memorized Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken. In that poem, the last stanza reads..

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

From small things like which pair of socks to wear to which job to take or is this the person I am to marry. At times, life can be daunting if we allow it. I am sure you can think back over your life where you were vexed about what path to take. What Shall I do?  We see that in the life of Pilate today in Mark 15.

12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.

14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

While this was a moment of uncertainty for Pilate, it was not because he did not have the right course of action. He did not have the right conviction. Pilate, like us all of us, knew what to do in that moment of crisis. In that moment of crisis, what guides us? Is it convenience or is it conviction.

God’s Word is the key. It is where we develop our sense of conviction. We must obey God’s Word.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
Psalm 32:8 – I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
Psalm 119:144 – Your statutes are always righteous; give me understanding that I may live.
Charles Stanley tells us why we still ask What Shall I do? Why we hesitate to obey God’s Word, to follow our convictions.

Why we hesitate to say “no”

  1. Fear of rejection – I can’t stand not being liked, I can’t stand being rejected
  2. Fear of a loss of a relationship – 
  3. Fear of a loss of finances – if I don’t do this, I will never make enough
  4. Fear of a loss of opportunity – if I don’t take this position, I will never make it. God can put you where He wants you inspire of those who are against you.

How we can say “no”

Isaiah 41: 10-12
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;  do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
11 “All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish.
12 Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them.

It is our failure to follow our conviction that calls for the shouts to “Crucify Him”. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we have His presence, power, promises and assistance in our lives. We also have a definitive answer to the question What Shall I do?  – Choose and Follow Jesus