Category Archives: Faith

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)

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)

Seasons

 

the_four_seasons_by_sagittariusgallery-d64nals

 

Here in Mexico we live with basically two seasons, dry and wet.  On the one hand there is apocalyptic drought while on the other there is constant rain, flooding and travel detours.  But somewhere between these two extremes for a brief few months we live in the “moderate middle.”  This is when the flowers are at full bloom, the temperature very pleasant, the birds are happy, the grass green and the sky clear. There is a feeling that makes one think, “This is it.”  The days become almost idyllic. During these times if a cloud comes over the Lake one would think it is an event!  But…. “Perfection” can be boring! After awhile we start looking for the smell of rain or, writing our names on the back windows of our cars in the dust.

The point I want to make here is that life is not one continuing straight line of tranquility or struggle.  It is a wonderful mixture of both high and low moments, gains and losses, joy and sadness.  To put it succinctly, life is seasonal! We enter one while leaving another but it seems we are always in transition: fixed towards the goal but ever changing as we approach it.

I am changing!  You are changing! Does that scare you?  Would we prefer to remain the same and know what we are dealing with, or would we take the risk to change and discover the next season with all its adventure?

It would seem to me that the only danger we face is to stop the journey, make camp, and put down roots where we are.  I think then we would discover what real prison is.

Stoppage!

But these seasonal changes inserted into life by Him are not repetitions of the past. They are  paths to newness, a higher communion, a stronger divine hug.  They are the discovery of what did not serve me in the days behind and an entrance into an “other life.”

Take my hand O Lord. Let’s do this together!

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord when he delights in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, of the Lord upholds his hand!” 


23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;

Psalm 37:24

23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;

Psalm 37:24

24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand. (ESV)

Controlled Substance

big-grace

TEXT:
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight”
( ESVST)

This verse is deeply profound, filled with meaning that we may all to frequently over look. It announces the unimaginable riches of His grace being lavished upon us beyond all limits. This gift super abounds! It exceeds a fixed number and speaks of extravagant excess. It is the amply Divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in daily living! And… it leads to redemption through a sacrifice, namely, the sacrifice of Christ’s blood.

It was the ”Riches of His grace” that inundated earth to bring men to Christ. No back alley, no homeless shelter, no corporate boardrooms, no elementary or college classroom, no place on earth finds escape from this divine invasion!

Yet, this infinite grace is not haphazardly cast upon us. It is not just a general “blessing” of sorts that is poured out without consideration. As a matter of fact Paul points out that great attention has been given to its distribution. Paul says it like this, “…In all wisdom and insight.” In other words He has given the abundance of the riches of His grace within the boundaries of His wisdom and insight. It is clearly seen that this gift was a deliberate and wisely calculated one.

You might call it a “Controlled Substance.” Given to aid, given to heal, given to save but given under strict guidelines and limitations, namely His wisdom and insight.

Looking at this I stand in even greater awe at the substance of His grace. It puts my salvation in a new perspective; I see what I did not see. Perhaps that is what Paul means in the next verse when he says, “Making known to us the mystery of His will…”

Mystery is uncovered and revealed to be Christ Himself.

So grace is not like a Christmas gift that was bought as a second thought or because of a sale. It is a gift with immeasurable thought behind it. This lavished grace is calculated and corralled by infinite wisdom, divine insight and mysterious love.

Enjoy it. Revel in it and… handle it carefully.

Controlled Substances require great care!

JWIII


In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight (ESV)

Going to Bethany

holy-land--bethany-munir-alawi  2

 Perceptions are quirky things. They are conclusions formed through our personal experiences – history – prejudices – fears – knowledge and hopes.

Sometimes they are accurate and sometimes they are not.  Nevertheless these perceptions are the end results of a unique filtering system that each one of us has, even Thomas!

The scene.  Jesus has been told that his friend Lazarus is dead. He deliberately waits two more days before starting out to Bethany. Earlier in the week Jesus and his disciples had escaped out the hands of an angry mob that tired to arrest him and kill him.  The event of the angry riot is still fresh on everyone’s mind.  The “mob” is an unpredictable thing.  It can be a passive assemblage of people and then turn into a dangerous weapon within minutes.  The disciples had seen its fury before and now Jesus says, “We’re going back!”

When Jesus speaks there is no discussion, no arguments to change the Master’s mind.  They know by now that He is not following the “whims” of man or desires of His own but rather His steps are to fulfill the will of His Father.

Vs. 16, “Then Thomas called the twin said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us go that we might die with Him.”

Perception!

His mind filters the Master’s command and all he sees is the crowd’s anger, Jesus bent on returning and a funeral for thirteen men.

But Thomas has yet to learn that Jesus is no ordinary man.

Perhaps he considers, “Who is this Lazarus fellow that would put us and our Master at such high risk? Is this man worth dying for?”

But perceptions as we mentioned earlier can be flawed.  Jesus commands His death. He will give His life at the right time but not now!

Thomas doesn’t understand and neither do we.

Jesus goes back to the danger of the crowd to raise the dead not be the dead!

A whole different perspective has been discovered. The filter systems are unreliable.

This all so different!

This is no ordinary man!


Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (ESV)

The Genesis of the Cry

 

 

The_Scream

Sometime between 1893 and 1910 Edvard Munch was inspired to paint the painting you see.  These are his words…

“I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature. “

Arriving home he began painting “The Scream,” an icon of sorts for modern man’s anxiety. It is the wail of common folk in the midst of economic uncertainty, global confusion and political tyranny and incompetence.  The scream is increasingly becoming more intense, more raw.

But it is not new!  It appears as a re-occurring theme in the Psalms most clearly seen in .

Here the lyrics sing a song of an encounter between need and infinite supply, torment and hope.  It is a cry from the gut, not a swift eruption of fear or reaction to pain; it is something much deeper than that.  It is a cry of anguish, pathos, and torment: one of exhaustion. It is quite frankly very human!

The writer goes through four stages, layers you might say, to come to this painful honesty with YHWH.

is a remembrance of the times when…. It is more than nostalgia but rather a rehearsing of a history that reverberated with the great exploits of God in the past.  But accurate history detonates genuine praise.  Following the history review you see phrases like,

“You are my King O God,”

“Through you we push down our foes,”

“In God we have boasted continually.”

“We will give thanks to your name forever.”

Remembrance of the past exploits of God sets the stage for and explosion of genuine, heart pumping praise! But even in praise there can be pain.

The second stage found in is one of honest strain.  The distress is not removed by memories of the past but actually propelled by them.  This strain is the natural emotion that harbors the cry.

“You have rejected us”

“You have made us turn back”

“You have made us like sheep for the slaughter”

“You have sold your people for no profit”

Such honest admissions find little room in today’s contemporary church because we think it is a denial of faith.  Yet the Psalmist answers this accusation in “ I believed even when I spoke, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’” I would propose that in the depths of affliction faith arises like a “phoenix” out of the ashes and overcomes despair! Faith transforms the anguish to solid hope that is yet to be seen.

But the song continues. Now comes forth a defense, not an excuse but a solid defense based upon fact.

“All this has come upon us though we have not forgotten you?”

“…We have not been false to your covenant”

“Our hearts have not turned back nor have our steps departed from your way”  

It is almost as if the Psalmist is saying “Lord we have remained faithful but you’re not showing up like we thought!”  “We have done everything right according to plan but its not working out!”  One can feel the unprocessed emotion in such a dialog. 

The “genesis” continues. A question arises, a question that the Psalmist is not afraid to utter.

“Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?” (: 24)

This is no cheap shot at God!  It is a serious inquiry launched from a heart of pain but at the same time filled with distant hope!  It is a question that all of us at one time or another has dared to ask.  But, as often is the case questions convert to screams.

“Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!”

Now, anguish is released!  The cry is born! The scream is liberated!  The heart is honest!

In my own experience I have found that God is not offended by such brutal frankness. Unbelief is another thing but YHWH welcomes this sincere inquiry. It is welcomed so the One who rules all might answer it.

Jesus, the One acquainted with pain and grief hears and is ready to answer the scream of Edvard Munch and yours as well!

Parents always hear the screams of their children!

 

JWIII


44:1 O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.

You are my King, O God;
ordain salvation for Jacob!
Through you we push down our foes;
through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
But you have saved us from our foes
and have put to shame those who hate us.
In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah

But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
10 You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
15 All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.

17 All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24 Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
26 Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love! (ESV)


44:1 O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.

You are my King, O God;
ordain salvation for Jacob!
Through you we push down our foes;
through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
But you have saved us from our foes
and have put to shame those who hate us.
In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah (ESV)


But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
10 You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
15 All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger. (ESV)


10 I believed, even when I spoke,
“I am greatly afflicted”; (ESV)


44:1 O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:
you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;
for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them.

You are my King, O God;
ordain salvation for Jacob!
Through you we push down our foes;
through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
But you have saved us from our foes
and have put to shame those who hate us.
In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah

But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
10 You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
15 All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.

17 All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24 Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
26 Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love! (ESV)

The Prophets speak in 2014

The prophets 1

Recently I was with a group of men who were discussing the Old Testament Prophets and how their message relates to our present times.  The conversation followed the path that I have heard many times before, attempting to interpret current policies, world economy, political figures and military might.  No doubt these prophetic announcements of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the rest, spoke beyond their times all the way to us but the temptation we face seems to be to fixate on explaining what is happening around us today.  We are deeply ingrained with the question “Why is this happening.” We want answers to what is happening on the news. Yet in our attempt to answer this we may miss the whole point of the prophetic narratives.

It would seem to me that the prophets spoke of the nations such as Babylon, Egypt, Assyria more as backdrops to the main character of the narrative namely Israel.  Why do I say this?

Peter gives us a hint as to how to approach such matters.  In 2Peter3:11-14 he speaks of the last days , a new heaven and a new earth, the burning of the elements and a promised new righteousness to come.  But then in he states “ Therefore beloved since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish and at peace.”

The message is clear. The emphasis is not on what is going on around me; it is on what is going on in me!  The focus is on the heart rather than the alignment of nations and despots.

These words of the Seers give us hope and strength in these unstable days.  How? By knowing we are not the first to feel the oppression of Egypt or the rage of Babylon.

The prophets do indeed speak today.

They warn.

They strengthen,

And they point to absolute victory!

Modern day prophets would fare well to do the same.

“ Therefore beloved since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish and at peace.”

JWIII


14 You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples. (ESV)

From Zapatista to Christian

 

 

Chiapas Church

Something has been happening “close to home” for a number of years. Christians in Chiapas, Mexico are making a stand that is leaving their persecutors bewildered and is presenting a valid reason to turn from their sin and render their lives to Christ. Recently Aaron Kolb, Isaac Solis, Jeff Robison, Jerry Lynch and myself conducted a retreat for many of the pastors of these persecuted people. It was life changing to say the least for both them and us.  (Note: The picture above is a picture of the church in San Cristobal where peace between the Zapatista guerrillas and the Mexican government was bartered in 1995.)  

Have you ever had your homed burned down because you went to church Sunday?  Have you ever been denied the chance to sell your crops because you are a Christian?  Have you ever had to flee from your land because they were coming to kill you?   I know some who have experienced this and more.  Family members killed, churches burned to the ground, mobs attacking the innocent and whole families thrown into prison because they will not participate in pagan worship rituals dominated by traditional religionist.  All of this is still seen in Chiapas, Mexico.

Recently five of us hosted a Pastors Retreat in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas Mexico.  Thirty-five pastors from distant villages high in the mountains made the trek to the town to engage in Bible study, heavenly contact and genuine fellowship with one another.  These men pastor a large sector of the Body of Christ that is marginalized from most of Western Christianity.  They have no resources, live in shacks and make the boldest stand for Christ that I have ever seen personally.  Many who have been driven from their homes and land are now living in “Cities of Refuge” dotted through the jungles of Chiapas. There those who are expelled for being Christians find a community that takes them in and gives them refuge.  To me it sounds a lot like what the early church was all about and I would surmise that we would see this sort of thing become more prevalent even in our own country.

But this bold stand is making an impact.  In the retreat were two men who were former Zapatista Rebels who fought against the government but are now pastoring communities of Christians. The change that has taken place in their hearts is nothing less than astonishing!

Jesus would do nothing less!

I sincerely hope the Lord will allow us to duplicate this retreat in other areas of Chiapas and Oaxaca.  The “Hills are Alive with Music” sung from the hearts of men and women whom the world has forgotten.