Welcome to the March 2002 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves.
A WORD FOR TODAY, March 2002
March 1, 2002
Negativity Robert Morgan, pastor and writer from Nashville, Tennessee once shared this story about prayer in a sermon. “I once spent the night in a crumbling hotel in Ponto Alegre, Brazil. A friend and I ascended to our room, high in the building, in a tiny, creaking elevator. From our window I saw slums spreading out far beneath me, and I felt uneasy. That evening I prayed, ‘Lord, please save me from any danger of fire. You can see we’re at the top of a dilapidated hotel, which is nothing but a firetrap. There isn’t a fire station near, and I can’t see any fire escapes outside the building. Lord, you know that this building would go up in flames in a second, and at this very moment it is probably full of people falling asleep with Marlboros in their mouths…’
“By the time I finished praying, I was a nervous wreck, and I hardly slept a wink at night. The next morning, as I evaluated my evening, I realized that my bedtime prayer had focused on my negative feelings rather than on God’s assurances and promises, and learned an important truth: Unless we plead in faith, our prayers can do more harm than good.”
David faced many enemies throughout his life. As a young boy he killed lions and bears protecting his father’s flocks. As a youth he killed the Philistine who threatened the armies of the LORD. After Samuel anointed him as God’s chosen ruler, he fled the wrath of Saul, never turning from the right ways. As king of Israel, he fought many enemies in the name of the one true and living God. He was threatened but never turned from trusting God, whom he knew would guard and protect him from harm.
Read Psalm 108
In this Psalm, we can see David’s heart and focus. He begins this prayer with a song of praise, exalting the one from whom he is seeking help. He remembers God’s promises, and recognizes that when Israel fails, it is against her God. In this song of praise he seeks God’s salvation, direction and help. He ends the prayer with a statement of faith. “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.”
What David does not do in this Psalm is like Robert did in that hotel in Brazil. He does not focus on the enemy, the fear or the danger ahead. He first praises God’s greatness and His promises and then asks for help. Robert realized the next morning that it was the words of his prayer that made him nervous and restless that night, not the perceived danger itself. He learned that he should have prayed in faith that God is great and His promises are true. May we all remember that lesson and pray in praise and thanksgiving even while the enemy stands close at hand. Amen.
Today would have been Dr. Seuss’s 98th birthday. This Word was first run on March 2, 2000 and continues to be one of my favourites. I hope you don't mind a rerun.
Dr. Seuss “Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?” “I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not like green eggs and ham.”
Theodore Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, wrote these infamous words. Dr. Seuss was born on March 2, 1904. Today we are celebrating the utter foolishness written by this man. This literature that seems to have no reason within has made an incredible contribution to the education of our children.
Children love to sit and read Dr. Seuss books because they have fun pictures, interesting characters and exciting stories. The catchy rhythms catch the attention of the children and draw them into the stories. The repetition helps them to learn to read the simple words and patterns used. The stories, though they seem silly, are filled with life lessons that help the children learn and grow. In Green Eggs and Ham, Sam-I-am convinces his friend to try something new. After fifty pages of certain disgust at the thought of eating green eggs and ham, the gentleman discovers that he likes them.
That which seems like foolishness is filled with wisdom.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:20-25
In today’s world, so much of the Christian message is viewed as foolishness. We are called to submit to God, and yet the world claims there is no God. We are called to love our neighbor, and yet the world says that we should love our selves. The Gospel tells us that God in flesh died so that we might have life. What foolishness! Yet, God is wiser and more powerful than anything we can imagine, and we know that He loved His children so much that He did everything necessary to reconcile us to Him. I’ll take Dr. Seuss above a grammar book and God’s foolishness above my wisdom, any day!
Old toys We went shopping at Toys R Us yesterday so that Zack and Vicki could spend some of the money they have gotten for birthdays and holidays. Neither one needed any new toys; they both have rooms full of things they don’t use. The women of our church will be holding a rummage sale in a few weeks, so it is time for us to go through their toys and choose which ones to give away. It seems strange to think someone would want our old, used toys, but our junk is someone else’s treasure.
A few years ago I bought several toys for the children at a yard sale. They seemed useless because they were dirty and there were parts missing. I was able to get a catalogue from the manufacturer of the toys and order the parts that were needed to make them functional again. I cleaned them carefully with soap and water, added the new parts and the toys were good as new. What appeared to be junk was really a wonderful gift for the children.
There were people in Jesus’ day who were treated like old toys. They were discarded and disregarded because they were sick in body, mind or spirit. Sometimes it was because they did not belong to the right group or do the right things. Jesus treated these people differently than the world. He made them clean, gave them the right parts and sent them out into the world with a new life.
Read Matthew 9:18-26
People questioned my decision to buy those old beaten toys. “There are too many parts missing, they are useless.” Yet, with a little care I was able to make those toys like new. They children did not care they were from some other child; to them those toys were wonderful. In these stories, the woman and the little girl were already written off by society. The bleeding woman was outcast because by the law no one could touch her. The child was dead. Yet, to Jesus, they had great value and He saved them. People laughed at Jesus. But, He made them new again, giving healing and new life – both physically and spiritually.
Jesus does that for us. When we are born from above, we are given the Holy Spirit of God who lives in us, works through us and with us to glorify God in this world. Jesus doesn’t discard us because we are dirty and broken. Rather, He saves us from the garbage dump, healing and cleaning us with His love, mercy and forgiveness. He makes us new and He gives us everything we need to live in His love. Thanks be to God.
Birthday Today is a friend’s birthday. I remembered a couple weeks ago that this day was coming, and I purchased her card early. The card has been sitting in a very prominent location for those two weeks, waiting to be addressed, stamped and sent. Its not that I forgot, I was reminded every time I saw the card. I just never got around to signing it until today. So, she will receive her card late, despite the fact that I had one to send long ago.
How often do we put off important things until it is too late? Many people mourn deeply for lost loved ones because they never got around to saying, “I love you” or “I’m sorry.” The most important thing we can do, that we most likely will put off, is sharing our faith. God presents us with opportunities to share His life with people every day. Too often we think to ourselves, “this is not the right time.” When we are comforting a grieving friend, when we are visiting a sick family member, when we are having tea with a lonely neighbor – these are the best times to share Jesus. We have been blessed to be a blessing, gifted to share Jesus with people where they are, in their grief, sickness and loneliness. Yet, too often we hold our tongue because we don’t want to force religion down anyone’s throat.
Sharing Jesus is not forcing religion. Sharing Jesus is speaking God’s Word into their lives. The only way they will know Him is to hear about Him so that the seeds of faith will be planted. We know the joy of living faith, the hope of eternal life to come. We have the promise sitting on our desk just waiting to be sent, given away. Yet we never seem to get around to it. We think there is still time, so we wait for a better moment.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, 6:1-2
I saw the card every day and kept reminding myself to send it, so that my friend would receive it on time, yet I never got around to it. Although the card will be late to her home, at least she will still receive our warm wishes. There is someone that God has purposely placed in your path so that you will share your faith. Who is it and what are you waiting for? Are you waiting for a better moment? There is no better moment than today, for we have been made His ambassadors, vessels through which God speaks salvation into the lives of those who are grieving, sick and lonely. Don’t wait; today is the day of salvation. Thanks be to God.
Teacher’s lounge One of the greatest joys I have this year is the time spent at Zack’s school as a mentor. I visit with a young lady in second grade. She and I do crafts, chat, read and eat lunch together one day a week. One day we needed to get into her classroom but her teacher was taking her break in the teacher’s lounge and the door was locked. I went in to the room to get the key and my friend followed me. Her eyes were wide open; to her this was an awesome experience.
I couldn’t help but think that this was no big deal, but I had forgotten what a mysterious place the teacher’s lounge can be to the children. For them it is a room where they are not allowed to go. The door is always closed, so they can’t even see inside. As I think back to my school days, I remember playing guessing games with other students about the room. Did the teachers have beds, French Chefs, masseurs? What was it about that place that made the teachers come out relaxed and happy?
As an adult, I know the teacher’s lounge is nothing special. It is a place for the teachers to escape for just a few minutes from the stress of their jobs, to eat their lunch and talk with other adults. The children are not allowed in the room, not because the teachers have anything to hide, but because they need a haven from the job. Yet, the students see it differently. Any student who gets beyond the door is almost looked upon as holy. They’d walked on sacred ground.
God gave the Israelites a special gift when they were traveling in the wilderness. It was the Ark of the Covenant, an elaborately decorated box that held their icons of faith – the tablets of the law, some manna, and Aaron’s staff that bloomed. While the ark did represent God’s presence among the Hebrews, they made it more than God intended. The ark itself was revered as something almost magical that they could manipulate to help them defeat their enemies.
There is a story in the first book of Samuel about the Israelites at war with the Philistines. Things were not going well for them and they did not understand why. The reason was because the priests were wicked and were not serving the Lord. Israel was not listening to God’s direction. However, they thought they would do well to have the ark in their presence on the battlefield.
They took the ark to the battlefield and all of Israel yelled for joy at its presence. The Philistines heard the cry from Israel and were at first afraid. They’d heard the stories from Egypt of what the god of that box, but they realized that if they did not defeat the Hebrews they would have to submit to the strange gods these people carried in a box. So, the Philistines fought hard, won the battle and captured the ark. The Hebrews mourned the loss of the ark. Eli and his daughter-in-law died in their grief. They thought God had abandoned them, when in reality they had abandoned God. In another story, Saul offered sacrifice against the Word of God.
Read 1 Samuel 15:22-23
What things do we idolize today? The children are in awe over the teacher’s lounge even though it is just a room where the teachers can escape the stress of their jobs. In our religious experience, we often revere the wrong things. We put our hope in the bible, in our church, in our programs, in our theology and interpretations of God’s Word, but we do not listen or revere God Himself. We make sacrifices to God, but we do not obey what He has spoken to us through His Son. God’s promises are true, and we live in faith that God will be faithful to those promises. We can’t earn His grace and we won’t find it in the things we deem holy; it is freely given through Jesus Christ our Lord.
England When people discover that we have lived overseas, they ask many questions about the people, the culture and the best places to visit. Many ask advice about planning a trip and are disappointed when they learn that their plans are over ambitious. Their expectations are unreasonable; they simply can’t see everything they want in a couple of weeks. We lived there four years and still did not see everything we should have seen.
I’ve had several people ask me specific questions about living in a foreign country, with the intent to move there some day. They often have a skewed perspective based on television shows they’ve seen and are shocked when I answer their questions. They forget about the every day things, such as the price of gas and the differences in food production. They don’t think about how they will get a job or the difficulties that they might face with taxes, health care and cultural differences. It is certainly possible to live in a foreign country as many people have done so. However, it takes commitment, education and preparation. The most important thing is to be open to all the information – both positive and negative. Weigh all the facts before making a decision. It is not possible to understand life in a foreign country based on a half hour sitcom or a travel show. Neither can foreigners understand living in America by watching Friends, Law and Order or Survivor.
Too often we put things in boxes – our understanding is so small that we want to make it fit into some sort of mold that fits our definition. Those who want to move overseas have a romanticized view of such a life, and are unwilling to listen to anything that will change that desire. In many cases, they so believe in their ideal that it becomes a source of arrogance. “It won’t be that way for me.” We do the same with our understanding of God. But God will never fit into our boxes.
Read Psalm 29
Oswald Chambers once said, “It is perilously possible to make our conceptions of God like molten lead poured into a specially designed mould, and when it is cold and hard we fling it at the heads of the religious people who don’t agree with us.” There are many who take their romanticized view of living in a foreign country and make it a dream, claiming that their life would be better in that wonderful place. They refuse to listen to other opinions or ideas. When they do manage to make the move, they discover its not paradise and then are often stuck in an even worse situation.
God is far more than we can even imagine. By His Word, the world exists. By His Word, we have life. His Word gives us all we need to live and serve Him in this world to His glory. Yet, with our words we still try to make Him fit into a box that suits our needs and desires. The Psalmist knows that God is bigger than human reason and understanding and praises God by singing of the awesome power of His Word. We should do the same, never using God’s Word to put down others, but rather as a way to lift them out of their tiny box into a greater understanding of His Love. Thanks be to God.
Thomas Aquinas St. Thomas was a Christian theologian and philosopher who is best known for his examination of the existence of God. He set out to reconcile faith with reason, to prove God by logic. Though some disagree with his conclusion, he was considered to be a brilliant man and his writings are still ranked among the greatest intellectual masterpieces. He wrote that man is an animal with reason; able to gain knowledge through experience and that we base our moral principles on our relationships with neighbors, our God and ourselves. When those relationships are not harmonious, we will act immorally.
Thomas lived at a time when there was a resurgence of Aristotelian philosophy, and many were falling away from the true faith in pursuit of a more logical understanding of the world. This trend concerned Thomas; it was negatively affecting the church. He worked to juxtapose the scriptures to the philosophical thoughts of the day, showing through the cultural norm the validity of the Christian message. His focus was on helping ordained ministers stay in the truth that is Jesus Christ. They have been called by God to lead the church; their theological and philosophical ideas would either take the church on a straight path or lead them into a path of destruction. Thomas taught them solid doctrine in the face of intellectual change, so that the church would continue to teach the truth in its fullness.
Paul was aware of the possibility of such things happening. After all, our pastors are human beings too. They can be swayed by the thoughts of this world, conforming to the intellectual and philosophical culture of our age. He wrote to a young pastor named Timothy to offer encouragement in his calling.
Read 2 Timothy 1:3-10
It is so easy for us to be blown by the wind of change in our world. This is true of all people, including those who are in ordained ministry. Thomas Aquinas did everything he could to help the pastors of his day stay in the faith. Though we do not have the mastery of language or philosophy of an intellectual such as Thomas, we can encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to stand firm in the grace given by our Lord Jesus Christ. Even in today’s church there are many ideas that are being accepted as true, ideas that deny the foundation of the Christian faith.
Take time today to pray for your pastor and all ministers of God’s Word. Encourage them in word and deed and remind them of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how firm they are in the Word of God, it never hurts to share a moment of faith, to edify them and give them strength as they continue to minister according to God’s call.
Siblings Vicki and Zack are getting to the time in a sibling relationship when they spend most of their time bickering about something. Vicki is approaching the teen years, a time when privacy is particularly important. The last thing she wants is her little brother bothering her to play all the time. Zack looks up to his big sister, wants to hang around with her because she’s older, wiser and gets to do more things. This difference in needs brings conflict between the two – hurt feelings and yelling. There are even times when they each wish the other wasn’t around. “Mom, I wish I were an only child” is a phrase I’ve heard too many times.
When we are in the middle of a fight with one of our siblings, we do not realize the important role they play in our lives. Our brothers and sisters teach us many things – responsibility, tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, patience and humility. Through those relationships, we learn that sometimes we have to give in to other people’s needs and desires. We learn that we are not the center of the universe. There are times when our brothers or sisters save our lives. Stories abound of children who get lifesaving help for an injured child. Sometimes our siblings even take the blame for the things we’ve done wrong, saving us from the wrath of our parents.
We all know the story of Moses, a great man of God who delivered the Hebrews out of bondage by the power of God. There isn’t much written about his childhood in the scriptures, but there is enough to know that he had a sister who loved him. Miriam saved his life. At the time of Moses’ birth, the Egyptians feared that the Hebrews were getting too big to control. They bound them by the yoke of slavery. Pharaoh decided to control the population by having every male child born drowned in the Nile.
Read Exodus 2:1-10
Miriam appears several times again in the story of Moses. She is also a prophet who helps to lead the people into freedom. Moses, Miriam and their brother Aaron quarrel along the way. Yet, Moses might not have survived even his first year without his sister Miriam. She followed that tiny baby along the Nile, caring for him, making sure the basket did not sink or tip over, watching for other dangers that might harm him. At risk to her own life, she stepped out of hiding to offer help to Pharaoh’s daughter. The child in the basket was a Hebrew slave destined for death, and anyone standing in the way of a command of Pharaoh would have also faced death. Yet, Miriam risked her own life to provide for Moses.
We should never forget the important role our brothers and sisters play in our lives. Perhaps they didn’t save our life like Miriam did for Moses, but they still helped us become the person we are today. As Christians, we have another family; we live in a community of believers. There are times we might quarrel with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we should always remember that fellowship with one another is an incredible gift from God. It is through them, Christians from every time and age, that God has brings us His Word. Thanks be to God.
Celebrity When I was a teenager, I was a big fan of Rick Springfield. I used to love to watch him on General Hospital and listen to his music. I even went to one of his concerts. It was a typical teenage crush, based purely on his looks – I thought he was really cute. I would have given anything to meet him face to face!
One night, my mom, a friend and I were driving home from a meeting some distance from our home. We stopped in a rest area for a moment, to use the bathrooms and grab a quick drink. It was fairly late at night, dark and not very crowded. A very fancy looking bus pulled in to fill the gas tank and give the passengers a breath of fresh air. The bus was Rick Springfield’s. My mom, my friend and I watched as he came out of the bus. He was tired, disheveled from the trip – he’d had a concert that night. He walked by us and we asked for his autograph. He obliged, scribbling his name on the papers we handed him. Here I was with my dream, I had to say something. So, I blurted out, “How’s it going on Love Boat?” I meant General Hospital of course, but the whole situation was so overwhelming for me my tongue was tied in knots.
Today I laugh as I look back on that situation. I think it celebrities probably face similar silliness anytime they meet a fan. We want something so bad but think it will never really happen, so we aren’t prepared when it does. The situation is so overwhelming. It would be much different if the celebrity were like a friend but we usually put our dreams on pedestals.
Moses was chosen out of all of Israel to deliver the Hebrews out of the bondage of Egypt. He had a very special relationship with God. Aaron and Miriam, his brother and sister, were also prophets, but they heard God through visions and dreams. With Moses, God spoke face to face, as a friend. Moses held the deepest reverence for his LORD, yet was comfortable enough in their relationship that he could ask for anything. Moses asked God to have mercy on the people, to stay with them when He was going to send them without His presence. Moses asked God to heal Miriam. Moses asked God to provide the people with food and water, to protect them from their enemies. God listened and obliged, because He knew Moses.
Read Exodus 33:17-23
I really wanted to meet Rick Springfield, but when I got what I wanted I was overwhelmed by it all. Moses wanted to see the glory of God, but God knew that it was not possible for a human being to see Him in His fullness. Though they were friends, God could not give Moses everything he wanted – the glory of God would have been too overwhelming. It is only in heaven that we will be able to see such an incredible sight.
Today, we see God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today, we have a friend in Jesus. Moses was leading Israel into the Promised Land; he had the assurance of God’s promises. We have an even greater promise – eternal life. Though we cannot see the fullness of God’s glory today, we can see the promise of it through Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and some day we will see Him face to face. And in that day, we will not be tongue tied, but will fall on our faces and worship His greatness. Thanks be to God.
Leaves Friday afternoon I noticed that some of the trees are beginning to blossom here in Little Rock. The change seemed to happen overnight – bare the one day, white with petals the next. It seems strange because there are still remnants of fall in our neighborhood; old dry leaves blowing in the breeze. Though it was quite warm on Friday, it was very windy yesterday and is chilly again today. We never know from one moment to the next what the weather will be like.
We had a free day yesterday, one where we could work on some projects at home. Bruce decided it was time to remove all the dead leaves from our carport. The wind seems to bring them right to our house – from the park down the street and the neighbor’s yards. The wind blows down the street but seems to swirl a bit near our house, blowing the leaves into the protection of the carport and leaving them there. Just hours after Bruce cleared them away, more had settled into the corners. Some day soon we will have to clean the carport again.
Read Hebrews 10:1-10
The Law was established before Christ walked on earth to show us that we are unable to keep God’s Law on our own. It is a mirror into our hearts, a way for God to show us that our wills are in bondage to our own lusts. Year after year the priests offered sacrifice to atone for the sins of Israel, the leaves kept returning. But when the time was right, Christ died on the cross – the final sacrifice for sin. By His blood we are made clean in the sight of God our Father. No longer is sacrifice necessary, Christ finished it for all. Now, we no longer look to the Law for our salvation, since it is impossible for man to be righteous by the Law. We look to Christ through whom we have been made holy and are promised eternal life. Thanks be to God.
9/11 It seems almost impossible to believe that it has been six months since the attack on America. The television, radio and newspapers have been filled with remembrances of the events and the people. The news programs have interviewed survivors, both those who escaped and those who knew someone who perished. They have looked into the sites, what has become of the buildings and the people. The main question in everyone’s mind is “Is life returning to normal?”
Of course, for many it is. We will always remember that horrible day; we will remember the people who died, the heroes who made a difference. But since that day, babies have been born, wreckage has been cleared, buildings are being restored and life goes on. A phrase on everyone’s lips today is “lest we forget.” The stories are to remind us of what occurred so we would not forget the tragedy. But what is it we are to be remembering?
Should we also remember the terror? The hatred? The anger of that day? Should we never forget the evil that was done? For many the anger is as strong today as it was six months ago. Those people are living in a prison, a prison in which there is no forgiveness, no peace, no joy. Should we remember the people who perished? They will live in the hearts of those who loved them and their memory will live in our hearts because we came to know them through their stories. They will not be forgotten.
Should we remember how this nation turned to God in prayer, turned toward each other for comfort and help? During those days our nation found some peace – a peace that comes from prayer. We prayed in faith, trusting that God was listening. There was unity in heart, in mind and in words, as Americans cried out to God for his guidance and protection. But this peace was not lasting. Polls show that the attitudes of faith are not much different today than they were before the attack. The same number of people read their bibles, pray regularly, go to church, or serve their communities. We still fight with our neighbors; we are still bigots; we still forget to share Christ’s love with the world.
Though these words seem negative, I do believe God did an incredible work on that day six months ago. He touched hearts, minds and lives with His love and mercy. Seeds were planted. Lives were changed. We are not yet perfected – this will come in time.
Read Philippians 3:12-16
In many ways things are back to normal six months after the attack on America. Yet, for those who came to know the Lord Jesus in those days, their lives will never be the same. Now, as we journey forward let us remember the things we should remember and forget the things that simply do not matter. Most of all, in forgiveness let us move forward in faith, being transformed daily by the saving power of Christ, living in the faith that He has given to us and shining His light through love and service to our neighbors.
Small Miracles The children had a day off of school yesterday; the day was set aside for parent teacher conferences. I was not really looking forward to a whole day at home with the kids – their bickering the last few times was more than I could bear. We woke to rainy weather and I thought I would certainly be pulling my hair out by five.
At one point during the morning, things were rather quiet. I knew that they could not have been outside. I couldn’t even hear the TV. I went in search of the children, stopping first at Zack’s room to see what he was doing. I was surprised by what I found – Vicki and Zack were playing together, enjoying each other’s company. I thanked God for small miracles and went to finish my work.
The children giggled at my reaction to the situation. They were being obedient because they knew I had things I needed to accomplish and we wanted to go out in the afternoon for a little while. To them, it was really no big deal that they were not fighting; they didn’t understand why I would make such a big deal about it. I could see by their actions yesterday morning that the things we’ve tried to teach them were having some impact. Oh, I’m sure there will be more days of bickering ahead, but for one moment in time their love shined – both their love for each other and their love for me.
Read 2 Corinthians 9:12-15
The Bible speaks of many great and wonderful miracles that our Lord Jesus performed during His life on earth. He healed the sick and He raised the dead. He fed five thousand people with just a few loaves of bread and fish. He expelled demons from people and stopped the storm. He walked on water and disappeared in the crowd. He did all these amazing things to glorify God. But that’s not all He did. He glorified God in the small miracles of life. He praised God for kernels of grain to eat, for water to drink, and for children. He commended the widow for her penny and Mary for her listening ear. These small acts glorified God.
Sunday afternoon someone asked me if the kids were ‘always so sweet’. I laughed, thinking about all those times they bicker with each other. But they showed their love for one another as they played together yesterday, and I could see the love of Christ in their lives.
The Corinthians did not always shine the light of Christ. Paul wrote to them because they were having trouble among themselves. But Paul commended them for their small miracle – the generosity they showed to the Christians in need. By the grace of God, we have the most incredible gift – eternal life in Christ. As we live in that gift and grow in our relationship with Jesus, the love of God will flow out of our hearts and shine the light of Christ in our actions. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift and for small miracles.
Advice I was in a chat room one day when someone asked everyone’s opinion about a distressing situation in her life. She heard plenty of opinions, many of which were focused on the woman’s comfort and desires. “Do what you feel is best for you.” “You need to take care of yourself.” She took this advice with great excitement, but rejected everything that questioned her motives. “What about your children?” “Have you considered your own role in this problem?” She asked the question because she wanted justification for what she’d decided to do anyway.
Modern media outlets offer many opportunities to gain insight and advice from experts in love, money and health. Radio and television shows have a call-in format that allows the listener to speak directly with a knowledgeable professional who will tell you the best way to deal with whatever situation troubles you. Newspapers and other print media have regular columns where people write to seek advice. “Dear Abby” is just one of the many people who will share her opinion on everything from the right dress to wear to a wedding to how to get your boyfriend to marry you. Most often the writers have a preconceived answer they want to hear.
A young woman writes, “Dear Abby: I am a twenty-three-year-old liberated woman who has been on the pill for two years. It’s getting expensive and I think my boyfriend should share half the cost, but I don’t know him well enough to discuss money with him.” For this young woman, following her passions was more important than common sense. She was physically active with a man she couldn’t even talk with about important issues such as money. The difference between wisdom and folly is like night and day. She thought she was being wise by asking Dear Abby for advice about money, but she was lost in her folly.
Read Proverbs 9:13-18
We are so easily swayed by our own desires. We want to enjoy life, to taste sweet water and eat secret food. We want to enjoy our relationships without being tied down to the things that truly shine the light of Christ to the world. We want our flesh to be fulfilled and would rather set aside the truth that is God’s wisdom. We don’t want to be disciplined; we want to be accepted just as we are. This is why sound bite advice has been so successful in our world today. It isn’t possible to get to the root of our problems in 30 seconds of airtime or a paragraph in a paper. So, the lessons learned are flippant, humorous, or satirical. Unfortunately, these answers call out to the passers by, “come in here, this is the answer to all your problems.”
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” This statement is found repeated throughout the book of Proverbs. In our world today, what seems to be wisdom is actually folly, because it follows the desires of the flesh rather than the will of God. We can go to experts for advice on our problems, but those who revere the Lord will accept the words of wisdom that come from God – those words that turn our focus from our flesh to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the life that comes from faith in Him.
Gifts The Air Force will use any excuse to have a party. Bruce’s squadron is currently planning a small gathering to wish him farewell. He is only going down the flight line to another squadron, but since he is leaving their midst they want to send him off with a bang. He’ll get a few gifts – plaques commemorating his time with that group, statues or pictures reminiscent of his work. Bruce’s office walls are filled with mementos from his long career in the Air Force. The longer he’s been around, the more of these gifts he gets.
When we left England, several of the gifts came rather late – after our goods had already been shipped. It was too difficult for us to hand carry these items, some of which were rather large. A coworker of Bruce’s offered to put all these gifts in a box and ship it to us here in Little Rock. Due to some rather unusual circumstances, it never got shipped – it is still in his car. We got a message yesterday, apologizing profusely for his negligence and promising to deliver it – in person. He is going to be assigned here at the base so we’ll not only see our things but also our friends.
We have bugged him via email for the last year about this box, sending humorous threats and sob stories. It has become a story that will remain in our memory and our friendship for many years to come. As much as we would enjoy seeing the things that are packed in the box, we don’t even remember what is there, those gifts are simply more things to dust and look at. This situation could have easily become a matter of hurt and anger, but our friendship is far more important.
It is human nature to put great value on the things we have, but those are not the things that really matter. The things of this world will fade away – we get tired of looking at the pictures and dusting the statues. Once they are put on the wall or set on the shelf they often disappear from view. They can’t provide us with any comfort; even the memories are sometimes unpleasant. There is only one thing that should truly matter to us – the love of our Creator and living out that love in this world.
Read Psalm 135:13-18
We are excited about finally getting that box, whenever it will arrive on our doorstep. We are even more excited about seeing our friends again. The things of this world do not provide anything we need – warmth, love, comfort or peace. Only the Lord God Almighty and His creation are able to do so. If we were to reject friendship over things, we would be choosing lifeless, perishable idols made by man. God offers so much more through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ by whose grace we know the love of God, have forgiveness, and live in peace with all of His creation. Praise Him! Hallelujah!
Josephism During the mid eighteen-century, European intellectuals went through an Age of Enlightenment. Those who engaged in discussion about every aspect of life confidently approached such things from a logical, reasoned perspective. During this time, many aspects of Christian faith were lost or rejected because of this focus. Joseph II, who was Holy Roman Emperor from 1765-1790, based many of his societal reforms on these principles. He made some incredible changes – organized a public health system, reorganized the army, and balanced the royal treasury. He abolished serfdom – slaves who made up the lowest economic class of the feudal system – and changed the property system. He consolidated the education system and worked to find the best scholars and scientists for the University of Vienna. He granted freedom of the press and established religious equality to all.
Joseph’s social reforms were certainly very positive. However, his actions were not approved by all of his day. His reforms took power away from the powerful and put it in the hands of the people, benefiting the general welfare of the entire nation rather than the prosperity of individuals. His reforms went too far in some areas of life, including the life of the church. He dissolved the monasteries, outlawed hermitages and took authority away from the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. This had some very positive affects, such as the creation of more local parishes where the monks served as priests.
However, due to this Age of Enlightenment and the societal reforms, religion was secularized and the basic idea of complete submission to the Lord Jesus Christ was rejected as irrational and those who spent their energy in defense of the church were deemed foolish. Clement Hofbauer was one such man, who spent his final years fighting against an idea that was permeating society – the church was for one day a week and religious thinking did not have any place in every day life. He saw the evil affects of state control in the activities of the church from a personal point of view – his ministries were shut down and he was forced to leave the people he served. His greatest concern was the affects of this change in Christian understanding that pervaded society. When our faith is limited to an hour a week, it easily gets lost in the cares of this world.
Read Luke 11:21-26
Clement fought more than the changes that occurred in the society of Europe during that age, many of which had a positive impact on the lives of the people. Clement saw Christianity slipping from the very heart of its belief – our complete submission to the Lord Jesus Christ and His mission for us while we live on this earth. Reason was rejecting faith. The Josephists had many good ideas, but took them too far by dividing people’s hearts from their minds.
Our Christian faith is part of our whole lives – not just one day a week. It should permeate our daily walk, our work and our relationships. In many ways it seems we have returned to a similar age to that in which Clement lived – one where reason rejects faith. In this day, however, let us walk in faith and use our God-given gifts of intelligence, eloquence and reason, to share the Gospel with the world.
No Word Posted.
No Word Posted.
Spring The signs of spring are abundant, that lovely time of year is just around the corner. The Vernal Equinox is just days away and the world is budding with new life. When I have gone outside to wait for Zack’s bus recently, I’ve noticed that the sun is rising much earlier – it is nearly daylight when the bus arrives. This morning a bird was chirping loudly as if screaming to his friends, “It is morning, get up!” The grass is beginning to grow; some areas are already in need of cutting. The trees that were blooming with pretty white flowers are turning green with leaves. The daffodils are in bloom and other flowers are beginning to peak above the ground.
I have begun to think about my own garden, which flowers to put in the beds, when I will begin planting. I normally purchase flats of plants from a garden center, since I really don’t have a place to begin the flowers from seed in our house. I have just a small flowerbed and some large planters that I like to see filled with color immediately. I don’t have much patience to wait for seeds to grow in the garden. So, in the next few weeks I will purchase the flowers I want and transplant them into the garden. The work of another gardener will grace the bed in front of my house, and our combined labor will bring joy to those who see it.
The Kingdom of God in this world is like a garden. Many people are involved in the life of a Christian. From the moment we first hear the word of God until the day we die in flesh, God provides for our needs – water and ‘Sonshine’, love and caring through the gifts He gives to those who cross our paths. He gives each of us our own gifts to be used to God’s glory.
Read 1 Corinthians 3:5-9
I hope that I will be able to make the garden beautiful with whatever flowers I purchase. It will take some work – transplanting, watering and weeding. I won’t be able to take all the credit, knowing that someone else lovingly began the flowers in a greenhouse somewhere. We will have made the garden together. However, neither of us could do any of it if God did not move in His creation, giving life and making things grow.
Throughout our Christian experience, we have the opportunity to share God’s Word and plant the seeds of faith in many people. At times we meet and share God with those in whom God has already planted the seed through another gardener. We work together to help each other grow in faith and mature into someone who produces good fruit in this world. No matter what we do together, we could do nothing without the grace of God and by the Word of God in Christ Jesus. He is the Gardener, we are His field and He makes His Kingdom grow. Thanks be to God.
Perfume The Gospels are filled with stories of the wonderful things Jesus did while He walked with men in flesh. He healed the sick, raised the dead. He gave hope to the poor and love to the lost. The whole time He set his feet toward Jerusalem and the ultimate sacrifice of His life on the cross. He preached the kingdom of God to the people who would listen and many came to know and love Him. Jesus did not hide his mission from the people. He often spoke of His death, more and more toward the end of His ministry, so as to prepare the hearts and minds of His followers for what must be done. Though He spoke of His death, most of the people were unwilling or unable to truly understand what Jesus was saying. They wanted a Messiah who would fight for their freedom from the oppression of this world. Jesus came to fight a greater battle and give them true freedom – freedom from the sinful nature that bound them and kept them from a relationship with the Lord God Almighty.
There are stories in the Gospels that show that there were moments of revelation of who Jesus really was and what He would do. Andrew gave Jesus a few fish and loaves of bread, knowing that somehow He could feed five thousand with so little. The woman with the hemorrhage touched Jesus’ cloak, knowing that she would be healed. By the Spirit of God Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, even while he thought Jesus shouldn’t die. There was a woman who knew Jesus’ love so deeply that she showed her love in the most incredible way.
Read Luke 7:36-50
The woman loved Jesus so much that she anointed Him with her tears and expensive perfume. This woman had lived a sinful life, but Jesus gave her the faith that comes from forgiveness, and it was flowing from her life as love for this man who really loved her. All the others only saw her as a sinner, even Simon who had invited Jesus into his home. The other gospel accounts of this story tell us that Simon was a leper, probably healed by Jesus.
But Jesus saw beyond the flesh to the heart. Simon did not even grant Jesus the proper greeting for a guest in his home – no water to wash His feet or oil for his head. He did not know the real healing that Jesus gives. However, the woman knew the depth of Jesus’ love, and she gave herself fully to Him – heart, tears and perfume. She was so covered in the living water of forgiveness, that it flowed from her life and showed in her actions. When she left Him, she had a peace that passes all human understanding. May we always be so thankful to Jesus that we also know that peace. Thanks be to God.
History I always hated history. It seemed useless to me to have to learn all those people, places and dates. What good purpose was there in knowing what someone did a thousand years ago? After all, their culture and circumstances are much different than ours today. It even seemed silly to study history from just a few years ago. After all, what is past is past and we should dwell on things that cannot be changed but look forward to the future.
I had the same opinion of the Old Testament books of the Bible. What good did it do to read those stories of Israel? Their culture and circumstances were even more different than ours today. After all, things are different for those who live in Christ. Jesus restored our relationship to God, offering through His blood the grace and forgiveness that gives us true life. The old stories are fun to read, but they aren’t good for much else, are they?
They say that those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. We study the things of the past, what worked and what didn’t work, to help guide our decisions for the future. The Bible tells us there is nothing new under the sun, and this is most certainly true in every aspect of human nature. American culture is not much different than other prosperous civilizations in ages past. Our political system was established based on ancient examples. Military, education and welfare policies were founded on principles used many times before. If we refuse to recall the lessons learned throughout history, we will continue repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Just as ancient history is important for us to know and understand to keep from falling into the same traps, so too is the Old Testament witness important for Christians. The Israelites had Christ before them, reflections of the promise to come. They were given the manna as a promise of Jesus, who is the Bread of life. Water flowed from the rock, foreseeing the Living water that is Christ. Yet they did not remain faithful to the One who fulfilled their needs. As we look back on those stories we are reminded that Christ is the solid rock on whom we stand and get our strength. When we are tested, as the Israelites were tested in the desert, we are warned from their example to turn to God. Lets not let history repeat itself in our lives – learn from the past and stand firm for the future. Thanks be to God, who is faithful to His promises. He has provided a way out, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Soggy Our yard is a soggy mess. It rained here for days, leaving behind several inches of new water. The lake down the street is higher than I’ve ever seen, with lakeside benches now like islands several feet away from the shore. The rain stopped falling yesterday and the clouds disappeared last evening. We awoke to sunshine and blue skies today. There are still a few puddles of water. A few spots on the roads and sidewalks are still damp. Other than that everything seems fine – unless you try to walk in our yard. There is so much water it is a soggy mess.
When the children come home from school today, they are going to want to go outside to play. It will be wonderful for them to finally spend some time out in the fresh air, playing games with their friends. Yet, I will have to warn them not to run in the grass. It is hard to see how wet everything still is, and hard to understand why it will take so long to dry. They can’t see the water that is sitting just under the cover of the grass.
As Jesus neared the final days of his life, he turned the focus of His lessons with the disciples to His ultimate mission. He did not come simply to heal the sick and give hope to the poor. He didn’t come just to teach people to be good and obey God. He came to die the death that would bring freedom to all those who are in bondage to sin. Jesus faced a greater death than anything we can imagine. Death on the cross was a most horrible way to die – the pain and torture He endured is beyond anything we will face in this life. This was a lesson that the disciples had difficulty understanding.
Read John 13:31-38
Peter still did not want to believe that Jesus would die. To him and Jesus’ other followers, who were looking to Jesus as an earthly Messiah, death would have been an end to His ministry and work. Peter was so certain that Jesus would not die that he was willing to follow Jesus everywhere. But as the events of Jesus’ crucifixion unfolded around the disciples, their assurance was destroyed and they began to doubt everything they believed and fear the outcome of their relationship with Jesus.
Jesus knew this would happen. He also knew that the disciples could not follow Him where He was going. His death on the cross was far more than a physical death – He would be separated from God by becoming our sin. His Father would forsake Him for a moment in time, leaving Him cast into the pits of hell. It is the only way we could be freed from the bondage of sin and death.
The truth of what was happening to Jesus in those days was like our yard, a soggy mess. Jesus had to keep Peter and the other disciples from facing what He faced. They would eventually die, some of them very horrific deaths. However, they would never have to face the separation of spiritual death. God did not leave His Son in the pits of hell; He raised Jesus into new life. We will follow Jesus into physical death one day, but because of His resurrection we will never know the separation of God that He faced that day on the cross. Peter did disown His Lord that day, but he did follow later. In the resurrection all fear and doubt is pushed aside by faith and hope in God’s promises. Thanks be to God.
Betrayal “Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’” These words of Jesus must have been heartbreaking for Peter. He was with Jesus through thick and thin. He climbed to the top of the mountain and saw Jesus transfigured. He was in the inner circle, was the first disciple to declare Jesus was the Messiah. Peter was the rock. How could Jesus say such things?
Jesus said it because it was true. Peter would disown Jesus three times during the evening after His arrest. He didn’t say it to be hurtful or snooty. He didn’t say it to humble Peter or upset him. What Jesus faced in the coming hours, Jesus had to face alone. Peter would follow Jesus into death eventually, but now was not the time. Peter had asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now?” Now was not the time. Jesus had to go first to prepare the way for those who would follow in His name.
Read John 14:1-4
The words Jesus answered to Peter, foretelling of his betrayal, must have been deeply disturbing. He loved Jesus, followed Him. He had experienced Jesus’ power, had been the vessel of that power when Jesus sent the disciples into the villages to teach and heal. Peter was imperfect, often wavering between arrogance and his own sense of worthlessness, but he believed in Him. Jesus did not allow him stay disturbed. He assured Peter and the rest of His disciples that this was the way it needed to be. Jesus had to go alone to prepare the way so that they could come one day. He was not leaving them forever – He would return to take them home.
These words of Jesus are some of the most comforting of scripture. He is preparing a place for us – one day we will be with Him. This is the promise of eternal life. We are all a lot like Peter and the other disciples. In this world, leaders choose people based on their merits, seeking those who are best suited for the job, who have the highest credentials, who will perform above and beyond the call of duty. When God chose the disciples, He picked a motley crew of misfits. He did this for a reason – to show us that He doesn’t choose those who are perfect, but that He perfects those who are chosen.
There are still times in our walk with Christ when we disown Him. We may not come out and say the words Peter said, “I don’t know him.” However, there are many times when we remain silent when we should speak out. Out of our own fear of retribution or sense of unworthiness we stay inactive when we see injustice, hunger and pain. Like Peter, we claim we are willing to die for Him, and yet we find ourselves weeping bitterly when the words of Jesus come true. But Jesus offered these words of comfort, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Like Peter, we are restored through the resurrection, made whole again by Jesus’ promise. Thanks be to God.
Voice Vicki took the Red Cross babysitting course last week. Bruce and I are planning to go out for dinner Monday night and we were unsure what to do with the children. Neither one of us are quite ready to let go, and yet the Red Cross has certified her to do exactly what we were thinking about paying someone else to do. The question was answered when Vicki was asked to baby-sit last night. If someone else trusts her enough to leave her with their kids, then certainly we should be ready to let go of the strings.
Children mature and we have to change the way we deal with them as the years go by. This is especially evident in the way the classes move from place to place in the schools. Vicki is now in Middle School. She has four different classes a day, with different students, teachers and classrooms. It is her responsibility to move from one class to another. This is a much different situation than in Elementary school where classes stay together for everything, even if they move to different classrooms for their special subjects. The teachers take them to the class, giving directions to help control the situation. The students walk in lines, wait at certain points along the way. The earlier grades have more controls; some preschool teachers even use ropes to keep the children together.
In the early years, teachers use more physical and visual presence to move the students safely and quietly to their next class. As the years pass, they rely on voice commands. In the later years, they rely on the student’s maturity and sense of responsibility to obey the rules that have been taught. There still remain times when teachers must use their voices, to bring a situation under control, to keep the children moving. The children hear the voice and obey, remembering the rules.
Read John 10:1-6
Sheep are very loyal creatures. When they hear the voice of their master, they follow with out question, and they do not follow another’s voice. However, they have to learn to recognize his voice apart from all others. Vicki is still my little girl and in some ways I wasn’t ready to let go. As she matures and takes on these greater responsibilities, I pray that she continues to hear my voice and will follow the guidance I’ve given her all these years. Even more so, I pray she hears the voice of her Master, our Lord Jesus Christ, leading her every step of the way.
When we are young Christians, our Lord Jesus uses His Word in the scriptures and through gifted people to help us learn to hear His voice. As we grow in faith, we come to recognize it, until He can just come to the gate and call our name. We follow, knowing the voice is from our Master, the one who laid down His life for us and that He is the one who will lead us to the safe meadows. Thanks be to God.
Triumph! Three years had passed since the day Jesus was baptized in the Jordan. He’d gathered a core group of friends and co-workers who not only saw Jesus perform miraculous deeds, people had been healed through them, too. Jesus spoke many wonderful things about forgiveness, the kingdom of heaven, hope and peace. His stories told of how the downtrodden would be lifted and the mighty would fall. In those years, He built quite a following. By the time He reached Jerusalem, He had a large army of followers.
Read Matthew 21:1-11
Today was His day of triumph! He entered the city on the colt of a donkey just as Solomon did when David crowned him king. Zechariah had prophesied about the day when Israel would see a king riding into Jerusalem again. The people had been waiting many years for this moment, for the day they would have a king who would remove the oppression of the Romans from their lives. Jesus’ Himself talked about kings and kingdoms. Their day of freedom had come! Alleluia!
The people were prepared to take up arms. They wanted to fight for what was theirs. But Jesus rode on a donkey, not a warhorse. He came in peace to remove an even greater burden from their lives. He came to reconcile them to their one true King, the Lord God Almighty.
Time I watched two different shows yesterday that showed how unusual the concept of time is in the world of the performing arts. First I saw the movie “Forrest Gump.” In that movie, Forrest grew from boyhood to manhood in just a few hours. Time passed quickly, a few years lasting just a few moments on the screen.
Then last night I watched a rerun of the final episode of M.A.S.H. The advertisements for this show said, “The Korean War lasted only three years but the show lasted eleven.” How slowly time seemed to move as we watched the antics of the doctors, nurses and other characters at this wacky mobile army surgical hospital. During each twenty-two minute show, we saw a brief moment in the lives of the people. A few friends moved on to other things, but several characters lasted year after year. We saw little transformation in the basic nature of each person – Hawkeye was as impertinent in the final episode as he had been in the first.
It is a long-standing joke that you can stop watching a soap opera for five years and come back to the same scene. The producers of television shows try to keep the children young as long as they can. It seems like the cast of the hit show “Friends” have been the same age for the duration of the show. Real life doesn’t work like that. Time passes as we live our life moment by moment. Children grow up and mature over the years. People change with time – transformed by experience, hopefully learning from our mistakes and becoming a better person. But all this takes time, very little in this world is immediate.
Most scholars agree that Jesus’ ministry lasted approximately three years. Yet, as we read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, it is hard to judge the time. On one hand, it seems impossible that He did so many things in such a short period of time. On the other, it seems like Jesus just wasn’t around long enough. Yesterday we saw Jesus come into Jerusalem in triumph, with crowds waving palm branches and laying their cloaks in the road before Him. How quickly He came into such fame, to gain such a following in just three years without benefit of MTV or movies. Yet, this honor would pass away even more quickly than it came.
Read Matthew 21:18-22
The time had come for Jesus to accomplish what He’d come to do. It was time to set the captives free from the bondage of sin and death that kept them from a true relationship with their Father in heaven. They were not bearing fruit in this world as they’d been created by God to do. In just a few short days, the crowds would turn from shouts of “Alleluia!” to shouts of “Crucify him!” Every person would be brought to judgment at one moment in time. But the wrath of God would fall on just one – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The fig tree withered immediately, the crowds turned on Jesus quickly, but all was for the glory of God. Jesus set His eyes and His feet toward Jerusalem. The time had come for judgment. Time seemed to pass too quickly during this final week of Jesus’ life, as the entire fruitlessness of the human race came to a head. The death of Jesus brought new life to His people. In faith we can bring this new life to all those who are still full of leaves without any fruit. Thanks be to God.
Authority The word authority is defined as “the right and power to command, enforce laws, exact obedience, determine, or judge, and those who are invested with this power.” In America, the people through an election process give the power to the highest levels of government on the national, state and local level. The government gives authority to people to do the work necessary to keep order in our society.
As we look at the history of some governments such as that in the United Kingdom, the source of the power is not so easily ascertained. In the past two thousand years, there have been many wars bitterly fought over the countries that make up the British Isles. The throne went to the heir with the strongest bloodline to the ancient rulers. However, after time as bloodlines were mixed with peoples of other rank and nation, there was no longer a clear heir to the throne. Many rulers over the past thousand years were asked, “By what authority do you take this throne?” At times it was by the authority of the sword rather than a rightful place in the line of rulers.
Even in a democratic system, when the people vote for their leaders, there are questions about the validity of the election. We saw this a couple years ago when President Bush was elected, but similar things often happen on a local and state level. Elections are sometimes too close to call. Those who opposed the leaders then spend the duration of that official’s time in office questioning their authority. If some action is questionable in the minds of the opponent, they ask, “By what authority do you do this?”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He went into the temple courts and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and merchants. Those businessmen were there selling animals for sacrifice in the temple, acts that were established in the laws of Moses. However, the moneychangers and merchants were selling less than perfect creatures for outrageous prices. They were taking advantage of the needs of the pilgrims who could not bring their own sacrifices on their long journeys. This was Passover week, a time when many pilgrims were in town, preparing for the Feast. The priests in the temple took a portion of the proceeds for their living and the upkeep of the temple. They were indignant that Jesus would upset the business of the day. He was also healing the blind and the lame, while children yelled, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” They needed to put a stop to Jesus’ activities.
Read Matthew 21:23-27
Jesus had the power to do these things from the Word of God, given to Him by God Himself. Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the merchants because they were dishonoring the temple by their deceit and greed. They were fulfilling prophesy of Jeremiah by making the temple a place of false religion, rather than true worship of God. He was returning the temple to its true purpose, to be a house of prayer. The priests were trying to find some way to stop Jesus, to catch Him in words that would give them reason to turn Him over to the worldly authorities. Jesus refused to give them what they wanted, which put Him one step closer to the cross.
Last days What would you do if you knew you only had six months to live? One month? A week? What would you do if you knew you only had one day until you would die? This hypothetical question is difficult for us to answer. If we have some time, we might quit our jobs and do some of the things we’ve dreamed of doing, such as travel or missionary work. Perhaps we would contact old friends or long lost family to wish them well. Even with shorter periods of time, we would probably seek reconciliation with those we’ve harmed or those who have harmed us.
Six weeks ago we began a journey into Lent, a time to reflect on our life in this world, to see Christ through His Word and to prepare our hearts for the Passion of our Lord. That journey has nearly come to an end. Early this week, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem like a king, to shouts of acclamation and praise. He visited the temple and turned out the moneychangers and merchants, upsetting the status quo of the city. He shared a few quiet moments of teaching with His disciples.
There are more words written about the Tuesday of Holy Week than any other day in the history of God. On that day, Jesus shared many parables, warning the people about the Pharisees and teaching His followers about the kingdom of God. He evaded many traps sent by the temple leaders. Jesus revealed things about the future, predicting the destruction of the temple and other events to come such as His own return. It was a busy day for Jesus, a day in which He pulled together everything He taught and applied it to their lives to come.
The Bible is absolutely silent about Jesus’ activities on the Wednesday of Holy Week. With just one day left to His life, we don’t know where He was, who was with Him or how He spent the time. I imagine He spent the day in Bethany with those He loved. They may have prayed and worshipped God together, sharing stories from their time together. Jesus probably spent some time alone in prayer to His Father, but I think He would have wanted to be with the people closest to Him, to comfort them with His love and be comforted by their presence in these final moments. The days to come would be difficult for them all.
Read John 16:19-24
We don’t know by the biblical witness what Jesus did on this day so long ago, but we do know He loved the disciples. He cared for them so much that His concern on this day would have been their comfort, their peace. Jesus was just hours away from being betrayed by this motley crew of men who followed Him for nearly three years. Judas would give Him up to the priests. Peter would deny Him. The rest would run and hide from the authorities. But Jesus loved them and encouraged them so that they might stay faithful through the bitterness of the crucifixion so that they would see His light through the dawn of the Resurrection.
Salt We live much differently in America than Jesus would have lived. In Jesus’ day, there was a greater sense of community. They relied on one another for protection, food, even shelter; hospitality was a very important aspect of the culture. If a stranger came to your door, hungry and tired, it would have been natural to invite them into your home to share a meal and a warm place to sleep.
In today’s world it could be very dangerous to invite such a stranger into our home. Stories abound of women who have been raped and murdered because they opened their door to men seeking aid. Families have had their lives – their material possessions as well as their peace of mind – stolen by criminals who pretended to be friends. We teach our children to be wary of strangers because of the terrible things that might happen. It was not entirely safe then, there were criminals, but their culture called for hospitality toward the stranger.
Salt was difficult to come by and was very expensive in those days. When two people shared salt, they formed a covenant of protection. The host promised to keep his guest from harm and the visitor promised not to bring harm to the host. It was a binding agreement, one that kept everyone safe from harm in an age when people were reliant on the community for their well-being.
It was the evening of the Passover meal. Jesus instructed His disciples to prepare a place for them to share this meal – a remembrance of their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt. It would be their last meal together, a time for Jesus to institute a new covenant with His people, a covenant of grace that would be built on His own body and blood. Throughout the meal, the participants shared food symbolic of the trials and suffering the Hebrews experienced during the exodus. These served as a reminder for every generation to thank God for His mercy.
One food they shared was a mixture of bitter herbs and salt water. They dipped unleavened bread into this mixture and ate it as a reminder of the bitterness of slavery and the tears shed throughout the ages. In the Gospel written by Matthew, Jesus and Judas dipped their bread together in this bowl of bitter herbs, establishing a salt covenant between the two. Judas broke that covenant just a short time later by turning Jesus over to the Jews, betraying Jesus with a kiss.
Read Matthew 27:1-5
Judas betrayed Jesus, breaking the covenant he made with Him at the Last Supper. Generations of men have debated over the fate of Judas; did he find forgiveness when Christ was raised from the dead? Judas went to the only place he knew to receive forgiveness, the priests in the temple. He expected them to pronounce forgiveness and sacrifice whatever animal was necessary to atone for his sin. When they rejected him, he was left without hope. Perhaps the story would have ended much differently if he’d lived just a few more days; lived to see the forgiveness that was revealed at the dawn of the Resurrection. If only he had gone to the foot of the cross or even returned to the community of believers, Judas might has survived through his despair. Judas was doomed to destruction because he turned to the law for salvation and separated himself from the grace found in Christ. But Jesus made a promise when He dipped that bread in the bitter herbs and Jesus is always faithful.
The story of Judas can give us hope in the midst of our own despair. We have also betrayed our Lord Jesus, so did Peter and all the rest of the disciples. But we all have an advantage over Judas. We see through the cross to the light of the Resurrection and we know the forgiveness that comes from Jesus. We live in this promise as part of Christ’s Church, the fellowship of believers through whom God shares the promise of eternal life in this world. Thanks be to God.
Crucifixion Vicki asked me the other day why we call this day “Good Friday.” How could something so horrible be called good? This form of capital punishment was cruel and painful. The criminal was beaten, humiliated, hung from a cross and left to suffocate. If they took too long to die, the soldiers broke their legs so that they could not push upward with their feet to get a breath of air. They were not given water to drink, but rather vinegar that was sometimes laced with poison.
After the Passover meal, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples to pray and wait. Jesus asked very little of the disciples over the years they were together, but at this final hour He asked them to stay awake with Him and pray. Three times Jesus found them sleeping, unconcerned about things to come. For them this was a night like any other night. Jesus asked them to pray, not for His well-being but for their own. They needed the strength that was gained through a close personal relationship with God to get them through the events of the next few days. They needed to be in prayer so that they would not fall into temptation – they would face anger, fear, confusion and doubt. They could do something stupid or lose all hope just like Judas whose despair led to his destruction.
Jesus prayed in that garden, asking God if there were not some other way to accomplish the work to be done. But even at this moment of greatest anguish, when His prayers brought sweat that was mingled with blood, He submitted Himself to the good and perfect will of His Father. “Not my will, but yours be done.”
A large crowd came to the garden in the dark of night with torches and swords, led by Judas. They came to take Him away as if He were a traitor, leading a rebellion against them. Peter had one of the two swords the disciples carried with them and he used it to strike one of the servants. Jesus stopped that foolishness, for how could twelve men with two swords defeat such a crowd? Jesus touched the ear of the servant and healed him, then went willingly with the crowd to His trial and death.
Those hours were grueling. Peter denied knowing Jesus. The guards mocked and beat Him. Caiaphas brought forth false witnesses, Pilate washed his hands of the matter, and the priests goaded the crowds into a frenzy until they cried out for His crucifixion. The disciples disappeared into hiding, afraid for their very lives.
Jesus was forced to carry His own cross until He could no longer stand under the weight. The Roman soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to carry it to the hill for Him. The women followed, weeping for their beloved Master and friend. They did not understand that this was His hour of glory. This was not a time of darkness but of light. This was the culmination of God’s love and mercy, the moment when the wages of sin, meaning death, would be defeated for all who believe in Him.
At the Skull, the place of crucifixion, Jesus was nailed to the cross. He spoke little during these hours, but every word was powerful and meaningful for those who heard. He spoke the words of David from the psalms, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” This means, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” This psalm was the anguished prayer of a righteous sufferer, one that did not call for the Lord to avenge the wrongs done. He then said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Though we see this as His darkest hour, for Jesus this is the hour of His fulfillment, when death was defeated so that life could reign. That life is found in forgiveness – forgiveness for all our sins.
One of the thieves ridiculed Jesus, telling Him to save them and Himself. The other asked Jesus to remember Him in His Kingdom. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” The world grew dark as the sun stopped shining. The curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. God would no longer live in a box for the Jews, but would bring life to the world through the death of His Son.
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus’ time was closing quickly. It would not take Him days to die. They would not need to feed Him poison or break His legs. Jesus was here by His own free will and would die at the moment He chose. Many of the people who had gathered began to grieve over what had happened. A centurion proclaimed, “Surely this was the Son of God.” Jesus turned to His mother who still lingered at the base of the cross. She was with John, the beloved disciple. He said, “Dear woman, here is your son. Here is your mother.” From that day forward, John took Mary into His home and cared for her.
“I thirst.” He once again turns to the words of the Psalms, speaking not only of the physical need for something to drink, but the utter loneliness He felt at that moment. David wrote in Psalm 22:15, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of the earth.” Then Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, He gave up His spirit.
The hour of His sorrow, pain and humiliation was over, but it would last for several days for the disciples. They would grieve the loss of their beloved friend and teacher. They would fear for their lives. They would try to make sense of it all. How did this happen and why? What would they do now? Should they just return to their old lives and forget these past few years? Nothing was as it should be, nothing was right. Oh, LORD, where are you?
This is a compilation of all the Gospel stories about the arrest, trial and death of our Lord Jesus Christ as taken from Matthew 26:36-27:56, Mark 14:32-15:41, Luke 22:39-23:49, John 18:1-19:37. Each writer gives his own perspective of the story, while remaining true to the event. For a fuller understanding of the depth of Jesus’ love for us, for what He did that day so long ago, read each of the Gospel accounts in their entirety. And may you have a blessed Good Friday, a day that seems so bad, but is so good. For without the Cross, we can never have Easter. Thanks be to God.
Tomb It was Passover in Jerusalem. The Sabbath of Passover week was one of the holiest days of the year for the Jews. The Sabbath was to be a day of rest, no work whatsoever. It was important to get Jesus’ body into a tomb quickly, before the sun set. Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the council, one who did not agree to the execution of Jesus. He was a secret disciple, hiding his belief because he was afraid of the Jews. Belief in Jesus meant life and death – life from faith, death because such belief would get one kicked out of the synagogue. The Jews survived in relation to their community, relying on one another for their daily needs.
When Jesus died on the cross, Joseph risked everything and went to Pilate to ask for His body. Pilate did not believe that Jesus could have died so quickly. He sent for the centurion who verified that Jesus had indeed died. So, Pilate gave Joseph permission to bury His body. Joseph was a wealthy man who had recently purchased a new tomb in a garden near the hill where Jesus was crucified. Nicodemus helped Joseph remove the body, wrap it in clean linen and lay it in the tomb. The women who followed Jesus watched where Jesus was placed so that they could prepare His body after the Sabbath.
The priests were concerned about the body of Jesus. After all, Jesus had claimed that He would rise again after three days. So they went to Pilate and asked for a guard to be placed at the tomb to keep watch and ensure the disciples could not steal the body and claim He was raised from the dead. These few brief notes are all we know about what happened after the death of Jesus. The Gospel accounts do not tell where the disciples were or what they did. It is likely they eventually gathered together to comfort one another and make sense of it all. It was the Sabbath, a day of rest and worship, but their Lord and Master, the source of their life was buried in a tomb. How could they go on?
Read Colossians 2:9-15
Hindsight is 20/20 vision. It is easy for us to look at the disciples and wonder why they were so sad and afraid. But we know the rest of the story. Though in the final hours of Jesus’ life they were beginning to understand all Jesus was teaching them, they were shocked and dismayed by the events of Good Friday. On this day, they were buried with Him in that tomb, unable to see the triumph of the cross. On that day so long ago, Jesus took the burden of the Law and all that comes with it – sin and death – upon Himself on the cross.
We too are buried with Him, in our baptism, but we know there is more to come. The dawn will bring new light. The women will come to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ lifeless body. The men will gather to decide what they should do. The triumph awaits. The world is about to see the great power of God.
Resurrection We know the rest of the story. Jesus Christ overcame death and the grave – God raised him from the dead. Our life is buried with Him, and we have been raised to eternal life through His Resurrection. God has triumphed, Alleluia! He is risen, He is risen indeed!
Read John 20:1-18
The joyous message of the Resurrection was so incredible that Mary ran to the disciples with the good news, “I have seen the Lord!” Have you seen Him? Has He spoken your name? My heart leaps when I think of that moment in the garden between Mary and her Lord. She thought He was gone, but there He stood before her, raised from death into new life. Jesus is truly the Resurrection and the Life; all who believe in Him will have eternal life. The dawn has come and light is flooding into the world. Who will you tell today?