Sunday, March 27, 2016

       
           “Rabboni!”

They looked on as his beaten and pierced body was wrapped in burial cloth and laid in the tomb. The stone was put in place and a Roman detachment placed a seal on it and then stood guard. Their tears were so many that they muddied the ground where the stone now stood. For his followers it was as if that stone had been rolled on top of them cutting of the breath in the chest and the light in their life.

Mary mourned so deeply she felt her very soul ache. Her mind reeled at what had happened trying to make sense of it was impossible yet her mind would not cease trying to. The cries and moans of grief felt like they came from the deepest part of her spirit before making their way up to her lips and becoming audible. At times she wondered if she could even go on, the thought of living anymore seemed ridiculous. How could she just move forward after this? He had made her life full, his teaching, his ministry and love gave her life its purpose, the only purpose she had ever had. How could she work, how could she eat, how could she even talk with people again? It seemed wrong; it seemed it would somehow lessen what had happened what had been done to her Master. Even sleep seemed like a pleasure she should not be permitted but it was her only escape. On the Sabbath there came times throughout the day when she thought she could cry no more, then again the stark realization of a life lived without him would come crashing back into her mind as if it was new all over again, back into the pitch black pit of mourning she would fall. The day came and went with her barely making a movement from her bed. Early the following morning she heard a voice in the darkness. “Mary…Mary...Mary” the voice tried to wake her. Then an overwhelming jolt from inside her made her sit up immediately and open her swollen eyes to see Salome and John’s Mother standing before her. “Let us go and give him a proper burial” Salome said. Upon standing she felt she would fall from the weakness of fasting and mourning, seeing her unsteadiness Salome grabbed her arm as they started off.
Suddenly a new strength exploded in Mary when the thought of seeing him again struck her mind, even the thought of seeing his lifeless face brought a new determination and gave her purpose once again, purpose that the other two already seemed to have. He deserved a proper burial, the hurried manner in which he was ripped from the cross and placed in a barrowed tomb had only added to the wickedness done to him.

As she walked Mary began thinking of the imprisonment this great Rabbi had saved her from. She had lived a torturous life, thrown helplessly into bodily seizures being mentally and emotionally tortured by demons, not being able to even believe her own thoughts she had lived in bondage and without hope. She had given up completely. Until the Messiah, she remembered that day looking into his eyes and being struck like lightning with a peace and love that caused her afflictions to be blown away like the fallen leaves of a tree might be blown from a hillside by a strong yet gentle breeze. Her mind had cleared instantly, from that moment on the sun radiated with a different light, it was as if she was looking through a new set of eyes and thinking with a brand new mind, and loving with a new spirit.

From that day forward she had lived with the knowledge that this Rabbi was not just a man. She gave her life to him or more accurately she fought to give back what he had given to her. From that moment on everything in her life pointed to this one Rabbi that had made her whole. She remembered talking with the others about how it felt to sit by him, how his presence carried a weight that could be felt by the spirit. They could all feel when he was near even before seeing him they knew he was there. When they looked into his eyes there was a great sense that he could see all that you were, it felt as if they could hide nothing from him.
How could any of them go on now? What would become of the Church, would they now return to the lives they had left behind, and if so what did that mean for her, she had no life before him, everything she had he had made possible.

Suddenly those memories dissolved with the cold and frightening realization that they were approaching the tomb where they had laid him two days ago. Light began to spill across the garden as the sun was just beginning its rise. Fear now struck her heart knowing in just minutes she would again see her master’s lifeless and beaten face. Seeing him that way had crushed her spirit, now that she was almost there she wondered if she could bear seeing it again.
As Salome rounded the hill where the tomb was Mary heard her scream. Mary ran to join them to see that the other two were standing before the mouth of the tomb, the spices they carried now laying on the ground. The tomb stood open the stone rolled away, the soldiers that were once standing guard were gone.
Mary and the others approached the tomb’s entrance. “Have the Jews taken his body?” she wondered in her mind. They ran inside. “What have they done with our Lord?” Salome cried, placing her hand on his folded blood stained burial cloth. Standing at the stone he had been laid upon. From behind them a voice suddenly said triumphantly “He has risen!” They turned and were blinded by a light like no other Mary had ever seen. Threw squinted eyes with her hands before her face Mary tried to look in their direction. They looked like men but the robes they wore seemed to be made of pure light. “Did he not say he would rise after three days time?”
Suddenly the light was gone and so were the men.
As if of one mind they sprinted from the tomb, without even speaking of it they all seemed to know where they were running to.

Joy soared again in Mary’s heart with the thought of her Lord being alive again. “Could this be?” she thought excitedly. They burst inside the house to tell the other disciples, wailing about what they had seen; the men were frightened and then angry, they questioned the women thinking they were delusional. “The Angel said the Messiah has risen!” John’s Mother cried out against the other disciple’s doubts.
Peter said nothing, he bolted out the door and Mary ran with him. As she ran with Peter Mary feared it had all been an illusion or a trick somehow and that they would find the tomb closed but she again rounded the hill finding it open. Peter ran inside with a look of astonishment and confusion. He touched the Messiah’s burial clothes as if to convince himself that what he was seeing was real. He then staggered back out of the tomb bewildered his hands pulling at the hair on his head. Mary looked into Peter’s eyes as he passed her, she could see he was feeling the same mixture of fear and joy, a smile stretched across his face but his eyes held worry and confusion. Mary walked inside and placed her hands on the stone where his bloodied head had lain. She was desperate for answers; doubt of the men she had seen already began to seep into her mind. “Were they really Romans, had they taken her Lord’s body, or could this really be what the Rabbi had been telling them all along that he would rise again, could she dare to believe it? Her heart wanted to sing out in joy but her fear and doubt prohibited it. Mary’s mind was frantic but then a peace washed over her spirit, it was the same feeling she had whenever the Rabbi was near.

“Who is it you are looking for” A voice from behind asked.
“My Lord and my Master.” Mary said through her sobbing. “Do you know where they have taken him?” She asked

“Mary” The Rabbi said.

She straightened with a jolt, fear and hope seized her as she now recognized the voice, she dared not even breathe.
She trembled from her sandals to her head dress. Fear had frozen her where she stood, she struggled to move. She forced her stiff body to turn and willed her eyes to look in the direction of her Rabbi’s voice.  Mary gasped and stumbled backward struggling to breathe she clutched for the stone behind her to steady herself but not finding it fell to her knees, her eyes now pouring forth tears still fixed on what her eyes beheld. Before her in glorious splendor stood her Master!

He was no longer the bloodied and beaten teacher she had seen being wrapped in the burial cloths days before, oh no, he appeared completely renewed, somehow even better than before. The Messiah stepped toward her and held his hand out as if to help her up. Every inch of her body shook and trembled as she tried to make sense of what her eyes were looking at. Looking at the hand he held before her she saw where the spike had been driven through the palm of his hand, then her eyes darted to his feet and there she could see the same wounds, now healed entirely.

Back to his face her eyes went, his gaze carried the same weight it had before only more; it bathed her in Love and peace. Her trembling stopped, her breath slowed and she touched his outstretched hand putting her fingers on his scar. Feeling his solid warm hand her heart exploded with delight, even more tears poured from her eyes no longer being tears of sorrow or fear but tears of pure joy. She excitedly clutched his scarred hand tightly and rose to her feet grabbing his robe and embracing him she sang out!                          

“Rabboni!”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Friday, March 25, 2016

Alive


Hebrews 4:12-13
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

In many countries still today Bibles need to be smuggled in under threat of arrest or even execution. In those countries our brothers and sisters are starving for a chance to read a the Word of God, meanwhile here in this country we can easily take them for granted rarely even thinking of the journey the Word took to make it to our homes.

I myself rarely gave a thought to the origins of the Bible or the many sacrifices that had to be made to bring it to my home in the form that it is in until a couple of years ago when the Lord gave me an unquenchable thirst for the Word and everything related to it. Knowing at least some of its history has given me a deeper respect and a more careful handling of its teachings.

Mankind has produced many great literary works from ancient to more modern but all of these no matter how well written or how impactful on society they all pale vastly in comparison to the Word of God. No matter the depth of meaning in any of these they seem like a shallow pond when contrasted against the ocean of understanding found in this book called the Holy Bible.
It sits there like any other inanimate object, still, silent, and not moving but this great text lives and breathes just as the verse says, much like a living breathing person you can take it at face value with a short superficial inspection and discount it outright or you can choose to get to know it and in getting to know it you get the great gift of getting to know the Lord more and more as you search it. This book has gone up against some of the greatest scientific and philosophical minds we humans have had to offer and proven itself over and over again. And why wouldn’t it, it is the very voice of God.

Christians were harshly persecuted until the Emperor Constantine became ruler in Rome and was converted to Christianity then making it the Roman religion. For the purpose of brevity we fast forward about 1200 years and we see the Roman Catholic Church holding scripture hostage only allowing it to be copied in Latin form and anyone caught translating it or in possession of an alternative translation of the Bible was executed. The Church sold what they referred to as indulgences, meaning you could make a payment and then be given the blessing to commit certain sins for a certain period of time.
Martin Luther with the same Holy Spirit driven courage we see in the more ancient Apostles charged the large and powerful Roman Catholic Church with many heresies and started what is known today as the Protestant Reformation. He narrowly dodged Martyrdom on more than one occasion and printed the first Bible in the German language.

William Tyndale was the first to rebelliously print the Holy Bible in English and was executed for doing so. One of the famous quotes from Tyndale reads- “If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you!

He was addressing a Roman Catholic Clergyman with this statement.

Many other disciples some being theologians and some laymen went to there deaths and or dedicated their entire lives for this work of further spreading the Word of God to you and to me here today. This gave us today the ability to read the Word for ourselves without the need to have another human, possibly a corrupt human, give us the meaning of the scriptures and so hold power over our very relationship with the one true God. As was surely the Lord’s plan from the beginning of creation itself His Word could not be bound up forever.

After the Bible was free and distributed however scoffers then began to attack it more openly sighting the lack of evidence to support its claims but as the years slowly passed the Bible began to win these arguments as archeological discoveries being made have again and again silenced the scoffers and exalted the Word of God.
The Behistun Rock was deciphered in 1846 and although not related to the Hebrew people, it was found to contain many accounts that paralleled the Bible. For many years skeptics pointed to the Hittites described in the Bible as evidence of mythical stories and people that did not really exist.
Then Hittite monuments were uncovered at the Euphrates River, as they searched more and more areas were discovered proving the Hittites to be the formidable empire the Bible describes.

Recently the pool of Siloam in Old Jerusalem was also discovered after many scholars made claims it also did not exist. This pool detailed in John 9:1-7 is the location Christ healed a blind man by making mud with the dirt from the ground and his saliva then rubbing it on the man’s eyes and telling him to wash in the pool of Siloam. It was discovered while workers were repairing a sewage pipe break.

There are many more archeological and even scientific discoveries that have only served to strengthen rather than discount the word of God that I won’t detail here, but I invite you to take a look into them and see how as time has passed and our society becomes more and more advanced the Bible has only increased in evidence and reliability.
Of course these external sources are great references we can point to when talking with a potential convert to the faith but if the Word is properly investigated at length they are really not necessary for the believer to have faith because the Bible in conjunction with the Holy Spirit will convince you of its authenticity.
The Bible was authored by forty men from diverse backgrounds over a period of about 1500 years and when it is read what becomes overpoweringly apparent to the reader is the common threads that run through it’s many books, chapters, and verses, due directly to the common God who is the true author speaking to us his children through the many voices of prophets, apostles and disciples alike.
It’s the one story of the triune God that is in his essential nature Love and being love creates us for Him to love ultimately bringing us to him despite his own need to suffer with us to make that happen.

It tells us of truth, a truth that is much bigger than us or the short time we spend on this planet. His truth tells us it’s not about us and our petty desires but about him and his eternal purposes. He tells us his plan for us is not one of worldly possessions and a trouble free life, but of submitting to and being shaped by His Fatherly instruction while receiving the real riches in this life, His peace, joy and love. He tells us he is not interested in our path but only in His path for us and that it may be one of many more obstacles and much more pain but infinitely more fulfilling for us and glorifying for him.

Through reading this His Book that He has provisioned for us to have, we begin to see a bit of the face of our Maker. Much like, I assume a blind man might feel a face several times to gather a picture in his mind of that persons features we read and re-read His Word bringing that image a little closer and a little clearer.
If we aren’t gathering this knowledge for ourselves first hand then we limit ourselves to a human source to spoon feed us scripture and its meaning. We can easily look at some churches and see this happening. We see the Word of God being twisted and sometimes mutilated to appease itching ears, the Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Then Paul instructs Timothy and us in verse 5 when he says
“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.


The Lord used men like Tyndale and Luther along with many others to ensure His Word could be had and known by everyone. There are people still at this work today literally smuggling God’s Word into hostile places to people that snatch it up and cling to it much like a drowning man might a life preserver. In knowing it we get to glimpse the face of the almighty God. We get to ingest the truth keeping our eyes open to the many snares of the evil one and our noses stay keen to the stench of false teaching. In many ways the Word of God has been given to us as a life preserver. Rather than just carrying it on us we must carry it in us. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

I am…
John 8:48 “Very truly I tell you before Abraham was born, I am!”


Friedrich Nietzche once said “There are no facts only interpretations.”
If this generation had a slogan I believe it would be something along these lines. Certainly this is the secular message being preached into our culture at large here in the U.S. Virtually everything is a matter of mere opinion or preference everyone gets to determine their own “personal truth” for themselves and anyone that tries to intercede and tell you any different is just close minded or judgmental. What a blinding and destructive lie this truly is!

That day in the garden this thing called a lie entered the world and when we decided to sever our relationship with God by latching onto this lie then sin entered the world and it’s been the same since. Sure the lies have greatly multiplied, they’ve taken on many different forms and angles in order to lure us and keep us ensnared but fundamentally they are all the same, they are all founded on this first lie told by the serpent that day that it’s all about you!

This lie that truth is created by us and not given to us has lured us into the thinking that we can create our own ideas of God in our own minds based on nothing but our own selfish thoughts and fickle feelings.

We can look into the Old Testament to see that this is not a new thing. Really the only difference between us and the Idol makers of several thousand years ago is that they fashioned there false Gods from metal, wood, and stone but we today fashion them in our self-centered imaginations. I was guilty of this for years. I had a cut and paste idea of who God was, made up mostly of whom I wanted him to be patched together with some stuff I had heard and other junk I’d seen on TV. I even prayed to this idea I had formed regularly but looking back on it now what I was truly doing was asking for blessings on the plans I had already made. It was more routine and ritual like rubbing a rabbit’s foot for good luck rather than any real searching or turning over.

It’s interesting how this attitude of creating our own idea or truth about God looks when applied to anything else, for example. I drive a Toyota Corolla and I am going to bet that if I started insisting it was actually a BMW that you wouldn’t see anyone say to me “If you really believe in your heart that’s what’s true for you than you can believe your Corolla is a Beamer.” No! They would think I had lost all touch with reality, why, because I would believe a lie and be insisting you believe it with me or at least not offend me by disagreeing with “my truth.”

When Moses meets God in the image of a burning bush on Mount Horeb he asks God what to tell the Israelite's about who has sent him.
God answers saying “I am who I am” he then instructs Moses to tell the Israelite's that “I am” is who sent him. He goes onto say that he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So when we ask God who God is he is very specific that he is an individual that is set apart and independent from what we think of him, he is at times even combative to what our thoughts might be about him. Here in this setting he brings confrontation into Moses’ life which is typical of a real relationship with the living God.
He can see far past what we think ourselves capable of and through the pouring out of his love he creates in us a great desire to be stretched and grown into what he sees for us. Moses even argues with the Lord as we do sometimes. After all Moses is a murderer on the run from the law, he’s lucky to be tending sheep at this point but God says you are capable of so much more. Not because Moses is special but because the Lord is confident in his own ability to work through Moses if Moses will only allow it. Moses chooses rightly and what we see is a murdering sheep herder transformed into a man that split the sea and lead a multitude of his own people out from slavery. He was only able to do this through his own surrender to the one true living and specific God, allowing Yahweh to work through him.

He didn’t do it by following his own personal truth about who God is or might be because then he would have been left relying on only his own abilities and if that were the case he likely would have never left that field tending the sheep of his father-in-law.

Here in John chapter 8 we see Jesus using the same language as Moses heard spoken to him from the burning bush. If we go back earlier in the chapter Jesus tells the Pharisees that they are not of God that they are of their father the Devil. We as Christians often demonize the Pharisees without giving enough study I think to who they really were. These were men after God, they spent hours in prayer, wore prayer boxes on their heads, memorized the first five books of the Bible and tried to live their lives by 613 laws, and in verse 44 we see Jesus calling them children of Satin! He is telling these “men of God” that this idea you have of who I am, that isn’t me, I am who I am and you got it wrong! Jesus is also shining a light on the fact that if your not with him your with the Devil, no middle ground, no gray areas.
This should scare even the most devout Christian into keeping his heart, mind and study rightly focused. The Pharisees even while being immersed in all these rules and traditions slowly began to believe a lie, they began to boast in the keeping of the law, using it to crush others and exalt themselves rather than exalting Yahweh, they began to use these laws and traditions to keep people from the Kingdom of God rather than bring people to it, and they allowed the lies of greed and power to remove them from who the Lord really was. They had gotten so far from him that they had formed in there minds and speech a false idea of what and who he was and what his Christ would look and behave like if they saw him and then he came and they didn’t recognize him at all! They were so saturated by the illusion given by the lies they now lived by that they thought God’s Christ, God’s own son to be the Devil!
This is the incredible blinding power of believing a lie, of inventing our own truth. We stand on sand and think it to be solid rock, we walk lost in the dark thinking we see better than we ever have, we sin and claim it to be righteousness! What a power the Devil wields and how easily we can become sheep for the slaughter being lured into a beautiful illusion.
What better lie could there be than to tell us we can have our own interpretation our own truth about who God is? It is such a powerful lie and one we love to cling to that it’s been here since the beginning. Following this false God we’ve conjured up with our own depraved mind we are left defenseless to the lies that Satin weaves and the destructive sin those lies lead to. He lures us into his sheep pen with the offer of fulfilling our own deepest selfish desires and self-serving dreams all the while keeping us blind to the fact that the sheep pen contains a massive bloodthirsty wolf waiting to devour us.

There is one God he can be your God and my God yes but he is a specific God with specific attributes, a specific character, and a specific will for your life and mine. He is not a general idea or a mindless force!
This God is Yahweh the God of the Bible Old Testament and New. He is the God that flooded the earth and the God that told Lazarus to come out from the tomb, he is the God that parted the sea and the God told the man on the mat to get up and walk, he is the God that took Elijah to heaven in a whirlwind and the God that his Son ascended back to after his resurrection!
He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! The seraphim and the angels cry out in his presence Holy! Holy! Holy! The Elders sitting with him in Heaven throw themselves to the floor and place their crowns at his feet saying

You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”
Revelation 4:11

He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the creator, provider, and the sustainer of all things. Think about that! He didn’t just set the universe in motion and walk away, no, he provides and sustains ALL. He is active in everything around you and in you right now!
The grass in your yard grows because of him. He ordained your eye color and the breaths that you’re taking right now! And yet he also finely calibrated the direction and rotation of trillions of stars, planets, and galaxies!

When we come to this God and focus our hearts, minds, and study on him he shines a light on our sins and exposes the lies in our life for what they are. He shines a light onto our path not only so we might better know his perfect direction for us but also revealing the snares and traps set by the Devil.
He makes the Devils illusions easily recognizable in us and in others so we might not only guard ourselves against them but help others be released from them. This God is not easily going to fit into our lives or our minds, no, he will bring confrontation and change into our lives, he will demand that we grow in all directions to become a better vessel for his spirit to flow through, he will begin to conform us to his mind, to his path, and by his laws.
Not through fear of condemnation, not through any work needed on our part and certainly not through guilt or remorse for past deeds but through the pouring out of his Love and Peace on us! The more we will turn over to him the lighter our load will become and soon if we are persistent in our seeking and giving ourselves over to him not only will our load and our burdens be gone we won’t feel as if we are even walking anymore but being carried along! We won’t be struggling with our sins like a child not ready to give up a certain toy anymore; we will hate them and declare war on them! The great an awesome Love of this God will spur you into action for him, not because we feel we have to but because we cannot stand not to.

This is not a small god here to help us on our way, this is not a small god here to lavish us with trinkets and wealth, this is not a small god wanting to help our dreams come true, or a small god that changes with the wind, that’s fickle in his feelings, or that holds us to conditions for his love.

This is the one and only true and living God that will lavish us with such Love, Peace, and Joy that material wealth will appear as a burden, this God has a dream for all of us and it’s likely not what our own selfish desires would ask for but it is guaranteed to greatly exceed our dreams in every way, this God is unchanging, untiring, and rock solid forever and always giving us a real foundation to build a life on. He has eliminated all conditions through Christ and now we only need to open up and receive his Love.
He makes no demands of payment for it but gives it free to all that come to the Son regardless of where you are now or where you’ve been before. He is as he says he is so let’s let him speak for himself.

He is Yahweh, He is Yeshua, and He is the Spirit of Truth. He is the one and only I Am!