Counter Balance

GTY_woman_on_scale_kab_140723_16x9_992It is Tuesday morning.  I awaken and the first thing I do is I head to the hall and step on some medical scales that will tell me if I have been a good boy or a bad boy.

These are not those scales with flashing digital numbers, these are the ones that have the two big blocks of steel that run on a slide and when the indicator is balanced, that is your weight.  My weight is measured by a counter weight on the scale. It stands opposing every fat cell in my body, and…  IT DOESN’T LIE!

My weight is determined by the counter weight!  Now that is worth pondering because the Christian life is very similar.

David, the former shepherd now King of Israel, rehearses this idea in one of his songs. In he draws the contrast between two seemingly opposing ideas, two counter balances.  On the one hand he sings of the omnipotence and omniscience of YHWH while on the other he concludes the song with hatred! It does not seem to be fitting conclusion to the song.  Praise then hatred. Strange!

How does one explain such contrast?

Perhaps the Lord gives us a peek here of his COUNTER BALANCES in this Christian walk. Both extremes are seen here, they are vocalized, embraced, and equal and acknowledged by YHWH.

My praise for the Father today also measures my hatred for wickedness.

David sees them both as something that compliments one another. After asserting, “How precious to me are your thoughts O God!  How vast is the sum of them… I awake and I am still with you,” he then concludes the song with:

“O that you would slay the wicked O God.  O men of blood depart from me!  They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take tour name in vain!  Do I not hate those who hate you O Lord? And do I not loath those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.”

And then he seems to challenge the Lord with this audacious claim by saying:

“ Search me O God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

This appears to be so bold.  His hatred for the wicked is put up for examination before the Lord and he is completely confortable with the test.

The scope of Jesus’ majesty creates in me a single mind, a single eye that puts me at odds with the world. It surrounds me with His omnipotence and at the same time it surrounds me with enemies.

In our day David would be branded a bigot.  Hatred for any reason is politically and socially unacceptable.  But that is an illusion.  Hatred will remain among us until Jesus returns.

Now it must be asked is it wrong to hate the wicked?

David would think it is not.  He hates those who hate the Lord and then opens himself to the highest court for examination.  He seems completely innocent in suggesting that the wicked be destroyed. But how does this flesh out for us with Jesus’ message of loving your enemies?

First, it is completely impossible to love your enemies if they are not your enemies to begin with. I think this is the point David makes in his song. But I would ask, “Should they remain your adversaries?”

David hates his enemies because he sees them as enemies of YHWH. That is why we hate! It is covenantal to hate those who stand against the One we are in covenant with and love the ones who are with Him. David is no stranger to covenant and his comments reflect so. Yet, Jesus comes to broaden the covenant with an invitation for all men calling them to come and lay down their weapons of resistance and become sons of the King.

The surest way to change your enemy is to make him your brother.  For this reason we preach the Gospel to all men, men who were enemies of God but now are made sons through the redeeming task of Christ.

Secondly, Love and hatred always work in tandem with one another.

Amos put it like this, “Hate evil and love good…” () Love and hatred are like the scales I use each day to weigh myself. My weight is counter-balanced with the blocks of steel on the other end.  My hatred is countered by my love and visa versa.

The world will tell you it is “unchristian” to hate but I think the Bible challenges that notion.  Yet we are not at liberty to respond to this hate in the manner the world does. We as His children have been given the grace and the task to meet their wickedness with the love and truth of Christ.

We will not shrink from identifying the wicked nor will we reject them by being silent.  We will proclaim the only One who can change an evil soul into a Saint.

We won’t rant and rave.  We won’t use carnal methods to belittle or strike.

We will simply proclaim!   Wickedness will be addressed either by His grace through Christ or by His wrath in judgment. Either way it will be addressed.

One final note:  Are you over weight with either love or hatred?

Don’t get on the scales unless you are ready to learn the truth but then again you may be at the perfect weight!

HE IS THE PERFECT WEIGHT!

SELAH!


139:1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (ESV)

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Self Promotion

Unknown“But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you.” 

In his letter to the Corinthians Paul here is addressing a common malady among ministers, one seen with all too much frequency in today’s modern church. This is the issue of ‘Comparison.”

Such comparisons are seen with much clearer acuity as the church and her ministers advertise and announce meg-events on the social media.  Some of these announcements by their design and flash can give the impression that Jesus is coming back center stage at the event.  Promises are made that makes one question whether it is real or not, yet, at the same time underneath the “flash’ there breeds a hope that it is real and the offer stands true.

I would surmise that what undergirds the urge to promote rather than announce is the need to be recognized.  This is too often accomplished by comparing one to another and Paul says, it’s a stupid thing to do so!

He puts it like this… “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”

They are without understanding of the rudimentary fact that they have been assigned their task. It has not been earned nor competed for but assigned!  Paul addresses this issue of comparing one to another because there is a basic failure to recognize that the ministry, the influence that you have has been assigned to you.

When one understands this, self-promotion no longer drives us.  There is no need to fight to be recognized by enlarging your importance or putting down another’s.  To understand your assignment puts the deathblow to “inter-tribal” competition and promotes trust among the saints.  Coordination and harmony replace strife and jealousy. Men find the joy of the Oil on Aaron’s head. ()

Paul does not disregard boasting in its entirety.  He suggests two areas in which boasting is proper:  In the work you have been given (That fruit seen in those lives you are responsible for) and in the Lord Himself.

The right focus moves us from commending ourselves and competing with one another.

“For it is not the one who commends himself who is approves, but the one whom the Lord commends.”

 

SELAH!

 


13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. (ESV)


12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. (ESV)


133:1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes! (ESV)

The Mystery of Taste

tast and see

He wrote it like this,  “O taste and see that the Lord is good…” David does this frequently peppering the song with outburst of praise.  It sometimes seems to just explode on top of you, similar to a sudden rain shower catching you by surprise.

The goodness of the Lord however is more than a sudden burst of good things.  It is more than a shift to good fortune, a swift deliverance from an inextricable situation or the sudden healing of my child.  Without a doubt his goodness invades hopelessness and turns the inky darkness of uncertainty into a shimmering brightness of a million suns!  It is often seen suddenly and without anticipation, catching us by surprise.

It’s GOOD! It’s sudden; it’s unexpected…  but not always.

Here David invites us to “taste” and then we see.

 O Lord sometimes your goodness lies hidden from the obvious. It seems quite out of sight of the realities at work on the ground at work or home or at the garage.  No one would deny you are THE GREAT GOD, but there are times when the invasion of your goodness doesn’t come when I think I need it.

There are times when your goodness is not grabbed or jerked into my situation but rather it is slowly tasted.  I hold it and search it by tasting!

Slowly I experience this abundant goodness, sometimes for year.  Then I savor it taking my time and tasting all the multiple flavors of it.  Tasting soon becomes absorption into my being.  Something is taking place, a change from the dark despair of what my eyes see to a brilliance lived out in another reality far above roads and trees and crowded cities with corrupt governments. I taste then… I see.

The scripture stories and my daily events of your extended goodness shine as a glass offered.  There is an appearance of “wine” in the glass but the full joy of it I cannot  experienced until it I taste it.

O Lord, I will come and taste your goodness that I might SEE YOU and not just the effects of all your goodness.

Then the “True Wine” will open my eyes to the “Wine Maker.”

You are truly GOOD O LORD!

 

 

 

 

 

Slackers and “Slack Takers”

Hello-My-Name-is-Slacker 2

There are two kinds of people. There always have been. They work in factories, teach in schools, serve in the military, fly airplanes, operate on people, serve in government and occupy office in high-rise building in the center of New York.  Many even go to church.

One group does only what is required of them. They are constantly seeking ways, very cleaver ways to minimize their output and do the very least possible to get by undiscovered. That thought can be troublesome if you are a patient!

They know about Jesus’ parable of the second mile but they consider that as something silly.  Some are just lazy but for most being a slacker is the clever way to conduct business. They call themselves dexterous or inventive but the problem is more sever than simple nouns can disguise.  They conclude it a victory if they can outsmart you by getting the most from giving the least effort.

We all know them and perhaps are even one of them.

Then there are the others.  These are the “slack takers!”  Something drives them to the head of the pack. Things half done, promises un-kept, tasks unfinished gnaw at them relentlessly.  These folk are not content with giving God the minimum. They are “maximum” people!

And so enters Epaphroditus, longtime friend and co-worker with the Apostle Paul. Here is a man who bears no fancy titles of distinction. He’s not in this race for the “perks.” He’s in it for something far more lasting. Paul calls him “brother,” “fellow worker,” “fellow soldier,” “messenger” and “minister of Paul’s needs.”  What a job description!  I doubt that any one in today’s modern church would have signed up for his job.  We want the title!  We want the respect and recognition, but not so for Epaphroditus.  Yet it is crystal clear that the significance of his life is far deeper than any title of esteem could convey.  But one title that could be given him is he was a “slack taker!”

Paul wrote it like this, “Because he came close to death for the work of Christ risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service towards me…” ()

The church in Philippi loved Paul but as in the case in many places their love was more easily talked about than shown.  They said all the right things but their actions were different.  They fell slack and so emerges the SLACK TAKER!

With personal disregard Epaphroditus fills the gap left in their service. Unknown, working while sick, never giving up and risking his very life Epaphroditus set the bar high for all future “slack takers.”

The price he paid was not to attain the applause of men either. These people in Philippi would have never known his sacrifice had Paul not told them.  But as it is with those fearless doers his actions spoke loudly! Loud enough to be recorded in the Bible for all eternity!

Things have changed little since then.  Today we still see them both.  My question is…

WHICH ONE ARE YOU?

 


30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. (ESV)

THE FUTURE

Future

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is known!

It was told!

It is certain!

The recent decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States have unleashed a flurry of speculation and fear among the religious community.  No one can deny that change is accelerating and our country as well as the world is moving at break-neck speed to a conclusion, one which is debated with much earnest in the social media.

Underneath all of this speculation is a towering fear that things are spinning out of control and the powers that once gave us a complacent life are now in jeopardy. The “monuments of security” such as the presidency, military supremacy, economic stability and moral stability are eroding and it is causing a national angst.

It is a justified fear, if you are standing on your own!

But if you are His, if you have, as Jesus told Nicodemus been “Born Again” the future is not a mystery.

Jesus took his “students” to His favorite classroom, the Mount of Olives and taught them some alarming things. This was not a class that any one had expected.  It was a class on THE FUTURE.

In the middle of His discourse he makes an astounding statement.  “Be on guard; I have told you all things before hand.”  In other words all the things that would challenge us as His children of a different Kingdom in the difficult times ahead, he gave on that lonely hillside.

But what were these things he was talking about?

Their ears stood at attention as he told them of their future, and ours as well! “There will be imposters who come saying they are the Christ and will lead many astray.  Wars of incredible violence and even news reports of such will fill the news media and alarm the population.  Those who are not killed in these wars will be paralyzed by the fear that they are approaching their own borders.  Earthquakes of unprecedented strength will occur even in the most unlikely places causing worldwide famine with millions starving, even in developed countries.  Persecution will arise by unjust laws aimed at Christians, regulations and edicts that will attack their foundational beliefs and force them to choose my law or their king’s. My sons and daughters will be hated by all men, even those in their own family for the stand they take. Teenagers will call 911 to arrest their folks because they refuse to allow their daughters to have an abortion. Tribulation will come that will shake the very soul of man and in that storm of fear one will come forward and declare he is the Christ. “

Jesus continued, “ But when they bring you before the courts let the Holy Spirit form your response. The stage I will put you on is too big for you to take the credit and say anything you want. Use the opportunity wisely and let my Spirit tell you what to say.”

continues with other signs of what is ahead but let it be said,

OUR FUTURE IS KNOWN

OUR FUTURE WAS TOLD

OUR FUTURE IS CERTAIN

The disciples’ heads must have been swimming as they listened.  This was not what they imagined his future kingdom to be like. Most of us do not either.

But two things seem to stand out in his discourse.  One, we have alluded to but will expand on here, namely, our response before our accusers.

Facebook is an excellent platform to communicate with others far beyond your locale but the responses I have seen to the present abrupt changes seem to be mostly responses that have come from emotion more than from The Spirit.

Perhaps we should regard our counterclaims as those that reflect the Risen Lord rather than our rage.

Then coming to the end of we see Jesus’ exhortation to the 12, “STAY AWAKE!”

It is vital for those in power to numb the populace for their agenda to progress.  This numbness comes in a wide variety of ways but regardless how it inflicts its stupor, we are called to remain awake and vigilant.  We are the children of light and see with eyes that can penetrate the darkness.  This ability to see is what will propel many of us into conflict with the current regime.

So, our future was designed for us! You are here in this time at this place for this moment!  He knew you would be here when it all breaks lose and He has invested a heavy price to insure your success.

So fear not!

Be wise!

Stay full!

Live light!

And never retreat!

Even so Lord Jesus… COME!

 

 

 

 

 


13:1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (ESV)


13:1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (ESV)

UNCONTAINABLE

This Magnificent Man   Day 5

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

 Have you ever tried to hold oil?  Impossible! Some things are beyond our ability and the empire’s attempt to silence the message was as futile as trying to hold oil.

Why would the “crown” want to silence John?  Empires rely on normalcy, the status quo to keep things going.  Power is entrenched in a select few and that is enforced with the might of the sword. Anything that challenges this authority must be dealt with swiftly and completely or else control is lost.

John is arrested.

But what those power brokers did not know is that you may silence the messenger but you will never silence the message. Like fine oil it will drip through your grasp and be discovered by those dwelling in the dust.

The marginalized are not forgotten; those who had hope preached to them by John will not be left holding an empty bag. There is another who will take up the torch and wave it madly in plain sight until all men see the light!

The One who is the portal between heaven and earth, the One who has overcome the nemeses of humanity now comes to Galilee announcing, “It’s time!” His message is no echo nor is it something utilized to gain multitudes of followers. It is the MESSAGE! It is heaven speaking loud and clear to earth in such a bold a dynamic way that the choice in the end will be clear, embrace it or kill it!

His announcement is not reserved for a few special dignitaries, or a particular nation nor is it limited to just the poor and oppressed it is heralded to humanity!  All of it! From time beginning to its end, in every century, every nation, every tribe and every language this message will ring loud and clear!

It is for all men!

It is for you!

It is UNCONTAINABLE!

 

 

 

 

 


14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (ESV)

SECRET TESTING Day 4

 

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The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

 YHWH is not benign! He holds to a standard far beyond our imagination and rally’s all of His strength and power to maintain that standard. When the standard of His perfection is not upheld then we discover his sever attention given to the matter. Jesus is no exception.

It was the custom of kings to be tested before receiving the crown.  Leonidas the valiant King of Sparta who withstood the mighty army of Persia at the Battle of Thermopylae, had been trained in the Agoge, a school that trained young men for citizenship and leadership in Sparta. It was a rugged school and many washed out; a school that movies are made of but this was nothing compared to what Jesus endured for the forty days in the wilderness.

Of all people Jesus is forcefully driven into the wilderness by none other than the Holy Spirit. The God-Man is expelled from society not by the hand of men but by the hand of God. There is no delay either.  Immediately after His baptism his direction is aimed to a desert place in Judea to be alone and to learn to fight!

His fight would not be for a nation nor would it be with swords and shields.  His fight would be against the author of all-evil, not one of his emissaries but the Satan himself.  The two would meet head on and only one would emerge victorious.

Mathew adds that Jesus fasted the entire time. For forty days Jesus ate nothing. He slept on the ground wrapped in his robe, drank from the brooks where water could be found and engaged in continual combat with the Devil. Again Mathew lets us know of three distinct temptations the devil presented to Christ but it would be fair to assume that the bombardment of these seductions far exceeded the number three.

Day after day the salvos came. Ruthless, incessant, cruel, the devil knew no mercy.  Yet Jesus never yielded nor did he have a pity party.  He held firm and gloriously repelled each attack.  The Devil had met his match! Jesus would now become his worst nightmare!

In our case such seasons either make you or break you. All that Jesus took on himself for us obviously did not include our periods in the desert, those times of serious testing and preparation. Our commission is born in the hearts of men and women who have passed the test and these are the ones who emerge as a force to be reckoned with. They bear the marks of the desert and are noticed by those who have experienced the same. Maybe they could be called “Comrades in arms!”

But we return to that lonely struggle in the Judean hills. Hills that had drank the blood of David’s enemies now witnessed a victory that far surpassed former battles.  Eventually it was the devil that gave up. The fight had come to a lull but would continue for another three and one half years. Future battles would be fought and Jesus would emerge without even so much as a scratch but this struggle during these forty days did not leave Jesus unscathed.

Angels we are told came and ministered to him.  There were no crowds, no applause no face book posts, just solitude and angels!

The world was about to see a man like no other!


12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. (ESV)

This Magnificent Man Day 3

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THE PORTAL

 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

 “In those days…” They were without a doubt days that would change history. Calendars would determine their dates by the arrival of this man.    Here another figure joins John at center stage but this man is the One of whom John spoke, the One whose sandals were more honorable than the prophet’s reputation.

Jesus leaves home. Few outside his immediate family have a clue to his future.  Jesus has grown to become a man working hard in his father’s workshop.  Hands roughened by years of working with wood are now destined to heal the sick, comfort the hurting and overturn man’s carnal ambitions. All his years at home were in preparation for a brief three and one half year ministry. Our culture demands instant results and often we demand them from unqualified men but one must ask, “What qualifies men to lead?”  As we look to the Prime Example in Jesus it would seem quite natural for God to take His time in carefully molding His will and character into the lives of those who bear His name. Jesus was at it were, hidden for thirty years while God was preparing both His Son and those who would receive Him.  Growth takes time, even for Jesus!

The day comes when he leaves his family and is guided to a river.  He stands in line with families, children, aunts and uncles waiting to enter the waters.  Others don’t recognize him but then it’s his turn.   John looks towards the next candidate and recognizes his cousin. The Baptist knew what others did not.  This was no ordinary man and certainly one that needed no repentance.  Mathew describes the moment with a sense of hesitance on behalf of John but John will agree to Jesus’ request.

I wonder what went through John’s mind and his heart as he lowered his cousin into those gentle currents. Questions undoubtedly raced through his mind when suddenly the clouds began moving rapidly as though they were being torn apart by an invisible hand.  Looking up it seemed Jesus could peer beyond the physical and see that innumerable host of angels gazing on as the Lamb of God fulfilled all righteousness. In plain view of those observing the Holy Spirit descended like a gently dove upon him.  And then suddenly The Father spoke from heaven. His words were heard by all but understood by only a few.  Perhaps some thought it was thunder but Jesus heard them clearly.  What other men mistake as something of nature those who have ears to hear walk away with understanding.  The Portal between heaven and earth literally stood before John!

Mathew the tax collector records it in the following way. “ This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” But Mark puts it more personal by saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Baptist may have seen the same thing but the message from heaven was not so much for others as it was for Jesus himself.  One must consider that if YHWH would give such a clear testimony of Jesus’ sonship what more will He do to assure you that you are His?

The entrance and continuance for the believer in the Kingdom of God is not something that must be guessed for or wondered about.  Jesus is fully capable of presenting Himself with such clarity that doubt is overcome by knowing.  A voice may not break forth from heaven or a dove lite on your shoulder but that chest-pounding confirmation of the Holy Spirit will arrest your heart and settle you into the absolute confidence that you are his!

His baptism will be his inauguration into his work.

Messiah has come!

Now it begins!

 


In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (ESV)

This Magnificent Man Day 2

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Forerunner

 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel ‘s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

 “John!”  Wam! Bam!  Front and center!  The mystical John simply appears. Other Gospel writers give us a little history about this “enigmatic man” but Mark doesn’t waste time on things like lineage, or the family tree.  For Mark it is “get on with the story.”

Times had been strange indeed for Israel.  Having another country dominate over them was not to their liking.  There were revolts, uprisings and of course all the intrigue and politics of trying to appease the occupying force. But people lived pretty much in a normal system.  Families knew one another; kids played together and teenage boys dated the girl down the street. Yet, out of this somewhat normality, there appears a man who, well, breaks the mold!

The Prophet is not dressed in linen nor does he carry phylacteries on his forehead or arm.  His unusual dress, a skin tunic and a leather belt easily identify him in the crowd.  One would suppose that that alone was enough to make the man stand out, but there was something else.  His message.  It was so off the norm.  He spoke like no one else using wild animations, launching words that became like arrows convicting even the most hardened hearts.  Those who listened could not listen with indifference.  There was no yawning in his crowd, no eyeballing the girls, just a people riveted on what they saw and what they heard.

Such is the nature of the Prophet’s message.

His pulpit was a tree stump; his audience was composed of a wide variety of people who came out to the desert to get a look at the latest “Headline.”  John’s message was focused on one word REPENT! A sense of urgency ignited his words and the people who heard him were caught in this current that would eventually lead to the Lamb of God.

Oh the people came. From all over Judea and Jerusalem the news had spread and people planned their vacations not to go to the beach but rather go to the desert.  John’s message offered hope, it offered a future that seemed beyond imagination and… it offered a new King.

The river Jordan was the backdrop for this “Rural Revival” as there was ample water to baptize the vast throng of people. Some stood on the shore watching and wondering while others joined the long line of men and women, boys and girls, who entered the waters to be baptized and confess their sins. One would suppose that tears mingled with the waters of Jordan as sinners for the first time ever could finally feel clean. As they approached he might have taken them in his arms and dipped them into the waters and upon rising he would say something very strange: “I have baptized you with water but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

“What is this?” they wondered. “We have never heard of such a thing.”  But they would and things would never be the same again.

John was not a master of gimmicks or technique. There was no stage with multicolored lights or sound equipment that could make one heard all the way to Jericho.  There was just a man who embodied a message that was more than mere words spoken. His message was demonstrated and what it said was, “I am nothing in comparison to the One who is coming!”

John had that strange itch, knowing that Jesus was on his way!

 

 

 


John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (ESV)

This Magnificent Man! Day 1

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Over the past several months I have been immensely enriched by taking a hand in hand journey with Peter and Mark. My adventure in Mark’s Gospel has drawn me into the scenes, the smells and the sounds of a time in the past and has enlivened  my senses to a Jesus who seems to come out of the pages.

I will begin to post my journey here on “Thoughts From My Moleskine” and I want to invite you to come with me, eat with me, feast with me.  This is not a technical work as much as it is a story, one that calls us to enter into.

Now… we begin.

THE BEGINNING

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,  “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

Beginnings start at the beginning and Mark sets in motion the story, not just any story but a story that has impacted all of creation and shall continue to do so for all eternity.  This is the story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is filled with amazing joy and deep pathos.  There are tears of profound saddness  and shouts of Hallelujah, babies, demon possessed, prostitutes, raging seas, jealous followers, cruel death and an empty tomb.    But our narration does not begin in a manger. It begins with the pen of an aged Prophet, seven hundred and fifty years earlier who is drawn into the far distant future.

Sitting at his desk Isaiah is arrested by the Holy Spirit.  This is no strange thing for this man. It is not a sudden fit nor is it a trance but rather a beckoning to come aside and listen. He is accustomed to such special moments, accustomed but never comfortable with them.  He sits attentive smothered with great respect and a sense of awe.   His wife a prophetess in her own right understood the things he saw and heard and even his sons were named to reinforce the prophetic narrative of Judah, but this didn’t make anything better for his kinsmen.  The enemies of Judah would soon surround her and the life span of her walls seemed numbered.

Smoke from Babylonian campfires would one day soon fill the nostrils of frightened Jews. It was a bleak time but it belonged to YHWH and he was about to speak something that men would hardly believe.  It is during this difficult season that God points to a future that seems like a pipe dream to those who hear it.  In the darkness of men’s pessimism the Holy Spirit interjects Himself and sounds forth a different narrative, one that contradicts the story on the ground.

Prophets do that! They see an alternative and then against all odds proclaim it with an assurance that causes the “brokers of power” unavoidable tension.

Mark sets the stage with a quote from Malachi and then concludes with a passage from Isaiah’s fortieth chapter.  The prophetic announcement bursts forth like a sonic boom with a “voice of one crying in the wilderness.”  He uses words like ‘messenger,’ ‘voice,’ ‘crying,’ and ‘wilderness.’  This is no political machine or a new conqueror about to come to the forefront appearing like the proverbial knight in shining armor.  It is herald by a single man, a man who would be called the last and the greatest of all the prophets.  It is the urgent disclosure that someone is coming and you’d better get ready!

Imagine it.  Isaiah was telling people not yet born to set their house in order and brace themselves for the dawning of a new era!

This is where Mark begins!

 

 

 

 

 


1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’” (ESV)