Thursday, June 30, 2016

Relentless
A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.9

John 11:15 “so that you may believe”

As time passed and the ministry of Jesus continued young John witnessed the persecution being brought by the Pharisees change. They no longer asked his teacher questions trying to trap him but now they hurled accusations and insults saying he was of Beelzebub and out of his mind. They gnashed they’re teeth at him and made threats but the Master remained steadfast and unsurprised.
Young John had begun to realize that the execution his Rabbi had spoke of looked more and more likely and this made John cling to his Master’s side all the more. This prophesy still greatly confused John and the rest of the twelve, the most perplexing part was when he said he would rise again. “How can the dead do anything but be dead? Did the teacher mean he would rise in the spirit or at the last day in the resurrection?” John thought to himself as they walked along the road.
A young boy came running past John and stopped when he reached the Lord. He spoke quickly and the Lord held his shoulder as he gave him his ear, then he was gone again.
Lazarus was sick and if the Lord was to heal him that would mean returning to Judea where the Rabbi had just narrowly escaped before being stoned. “Was this the time Jesus had talked about, would John now watch as his precious Master was stoned to death?” John’s mind reeled. John looked at the dust of the ground as he thought these things so his Messiah might not see his fear. A hand gripped John’s shoulder and he lifted his head and looked into the peace filled face of his Master. Jesus said everything young John needed to hear without speaking a word; his expression alone told John that Jesus knew his fears but that all would be well. Jesus turned and spoke to the others. “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

They went nearby and stayed, resting and reminiscing of days past.
Young John loved to hear his great friend and Master laugh as they retold funny stories about one another they had gathered during their many journeys.
The Lord would guide them through times of prayer and worship so intense that John hated to have them end. Being in the Messiah’s presence was much like sitting close to a fire on a very cold night, only a fire for the spirit and not the flesh.
“Would this fire be snuffed out, would they’re Lord be taken from them?”
This became John’s only fear, it consumed his thoughts.
After two days time the Messiah said to the disciples “let us go to Judea again.”
Peter and John shot looks of concern to one another. “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone you, and you are going there again?” One of the twelve asked. “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
“Lord if he sleeps he will get well.” They said again.
“Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” Jesus bluntly replied.
“Let us go that we may die with him.” Thomas said.

The journey they took back to Judea was an anxious one, filled with silent looks of dread. They had opposed the Lord all they could and to go any farther would invite rebuke from they’re beloved teacher. Many times young John and the other eleven had obeyed even when it went against all they knew and their faith each time was greatly increased; now it seemed they might be walking toward the execution of they’re Messiah and possibly even there own yet they denied all they felt and thought and placed their lives in his hands, they had come to follow him and follow him they would.

The sisters of Lazarus came falling at the feet of Jesus as he came to their home. Young John watched on as his teacher wept and grieved with them, John stood very confused as to why they hadn’t come before Lazarus had died, as the sister’s said. “Your brother will rise again” John overheard Jesus say. “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection in the last day.” Martha said in response. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” He asked “Yes Lord, I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Mary, Martha, and Jesus held onto one another as they made they’re way to the tomb where Lazarus lay. A great number of Jews followed him and the disciples as they went. They stopped at the front of the tomb.
“Take away the stone.” Jesus instructed.
Everything Jesus had said over the past several days suddenly became clear to John as he scrambled for a vantage point at which to view what he now knew his Master was about to do. Some men went to work preparing to roll the stone away. The crowd chattered wildly, some shouted loud complaints about defilement and uncleanness; others like John sensed what this healing Messiah might have in mind to do and uttered questions to one another. “How is this possible? Hasn’t his body begun to decay by now?”
“Lord by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Martha insisted.
As the stone was removed the crowd gasped at the smell of decaying flesh. Some friends of the Pharisees stood at the back and shouted insults and accusations to the Lord.

Jesus looked to the sky “Father I thank you that you have heard me. And I know that you always hear me, but because of the people standing by I have said this that they may believe that you have sent me.”
Jesus set his eyes on the now open entrance of the tomb and shouted
                                        “Lazarus come forth!”

Young John watched as Lazarus stumbled to the entrance, grave cloth dangling from his renewed body and face. Some in the crowd fainted and fell to the ground, others shouted with fear and ran away, many more rejoiced and gave thanks to God and to Jesus.
“Loose him and let him go!” Jesus instructed



Rant
Throughout the Old Testament we read about God acting in our own human history, and when He does He does it in such a way that no other explanation can be given, no glory can be laid upon any human involved. He gives Sarah the ability to bear a child at the age of ninety.
He brings plagues to the Egyptians and He parts the sea as His people march out from Egypt. He tells Joshua to march around the city of Jericho seven times and blow a trumpet. He uses a small weak Shepard boy to defeat a giant philistine soldier. Each time He sets the scene with His all encompassing sovereign will in a way that no human power can be attributed to bringing these events about yet we still see much glory given to the humans God uses. We speak of Moses parting the sea, of Joshua’s great faith and leadership, and of David’s courage. Each of these servants were very flawed people yet God chose to use them and when He chooses to use someone we have the tendency as self-centered humans to then exalt the human when we shouldn’t really make much of the human but of how God was able to use this flawed human for His will. In every story of the Bible we should see only much being made of God.

Here Jesus leaves not even the slightest doubt about this mans death. He leaves him to lay and decay for four long days. He goes to the home of Mary and Martha not in the night or the wee hours of the morning but while many Jews are there from Jerusalem to console the sisters. This is believed to be one of the Lord’s final miracles before His execution. He is giving one last very clear sign as to His identity in an act that can only bring glory to Himself.
Is it any wonder that when we come to Christ and begin a relationship with Him we feel we have really then started to truly live? He is life and before we abided in Him we were as dead spiritually as Lazarus was here physically. Our spirit had become emaciated it had withered away from lack of spiritual nutrients and died from starvation. But then the Lord looked at us and called us forth, He woke us from spiritual death and placed in us a spring of living water that pours forth nourishing and growing our spirit. He placed the Spirit of Truth in us to guide, strengthen, and mature us in this life for preparation of the next.
This change, this rebirth is also something that could never have been brought about by anyone other than He who is Himself life and it is also not something we merited receiving. Are we to believe He chose us because of something we have done, because we were somehow more special than the millions of spiritually dead unbelievers that surround us? No, only God should be praised for this gift of His life we have received. If no human effort or significance can be attributed to this miraculous gift we have been given our great desire in life will be to tell others so that they might themselves be awakened, but if we, as many often do, start to see some worthy thing we think we’ve done or if deep down we think we were chosen because of the “Good” life we were living before we came to Christ we will feel entitled to it and will look on others at times as less entitled to the love and Life of Christ.
Yahweh is the only Hero in the Bible and He must be the only Hero in our life’s story also. He did not require the help of the servants we read about just like He does not require ours but He chooses to work through us, He chooses to act in us, and He chooses to bring to life what once was dead, not because we are entitled at all, not because he needs us at all, but only because of His sovereign will and His great Love for us His children. He acts through us for His own Glory and we, His children, should seek only to magnify that Glory to others and never want or attempt to use any of this glory for our exaltation.
We move and breathe because He has seen fit to will it, how dare we then use this Life He has bestowed to exalt ourselves or to be a stumbling block to the still blind with our great sense of entitlement.

We should beat our breast and cry out “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Relentless
A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.8


Matthew 16:28
"Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

The breeze brought relief from the mid-day sun. Jesus and the twelve recline on a bank at the foot of Mount Tabor, resting from the days walking. Young John sat in deep thought trying to make sense of what the teacher had again told them of his coming death. John was terrified to think of loosing his Messiah who he now knew to be the very Son of Yahweh.
Peter had said what they all were convinced of after watching him stop a storm and clear the skies with the wave of his hand. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
This Rabbi had no doubt in him, no fear, and no sin in his character; he was a complete and sure man like none John had ever known.
Young John was obsessed with trying to reconcile in his mind what the teacher’s meaning and purpose was in telling them he would be executed, after all the Messiah foretold in the prophets would not die but would usher in a new kingdom. “How can the Son of the most high allow himself to be killed?” John thought to himself.
John raised his head and saw that Jesus was looking on at him in his deep worry. A small smile and a look of reassurance painted the Rabbi’s face and John knew from deep in his heart that his teacher could see his worry and confusion. Jesus leaned and placed his hand on John’s shoulder “Gather your brother and come on a walk with me.” John went to James and retuned to the Lord who now stood with Peter. Jesus began up the mountain. “Does he intend to finally answer our questions?” John thought as they climbed. As Jesus continued on it became clear he intended to reach the very top and the three exchanged confused looks, but by now they had learned not to question the Lord’s intentions. The climbing was hard on their weary legs after the journey they’d just finished with. After long hard climb up steep terrain they began coming into a clearing and it appeared the summit was near. Young John walked between Peter and James, they often needed one another for support as they ascended. The Lord was at least five strides ahead. John had his eyes fixed on Jesus as he came into the clearing of the summit.
What Young John’s eyes beheld next he would spend the remainder of his life trying to explain to others.
A light more brilliant than seven suns began to shine from within their Lord, but it was not a light you needed to shield your eyes from but one you couldn’t stop gazing into. The Lord’s robe seemed made from a white light, the whitest white imaginable, his face beamed with an internal light that caused John to fall to his knees and weep. They all gasped when suddenly Elijah and Moses appeared and began to speak with the Lord.
John had no thoughts, he made no movements but sat there on his knees weeping, shaking and looking on. John heard Peter begin to babble incoherently about building tabernacles, and James laying in the grass sobbing.  John understood what Peter meant, he didn’t want to leave but stay here in this place, in this scene always, and John felt the same.

A great cloud descended on them, a cloud like none John had ever seen before, it seemed made somehow of light. Suddenly a voice broke forth “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear Him!
The voice seemed to vibrate through young John’s body; it seemed made of thunder or rushing waters or both, the sound was deafening and the three now lay face down. Moments passed, stillness fell about them, and John with his eyes still squinted shut could feel the breeze once again.
 “Arise and do not be afraid!” Jesus said
John slowly pulled his head from his arms and saw that it was all gone, the sun hung low now in the sky and the breeze blew threw his hair. He looked to the Lord’s face and saw flesh again and took a deep breath, the other two rose to their feet also. Jesus stood with a large peaceful grin painted across his face as they gathered themselves. Then he turned and began descending quickly.
“Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead!” He called back to them as young John struggled to keep up while trying to make sense of what he’d seen. This teacher of theirs held authority over not only the storms and the seas but over the law and the prophets as well.
John had heard the stories of the prophets of old describing the voice of Yahweh and had dreamed of what hearing His voice would be like and now he had and that voice had called their Rabbi His own Son.
 Again this new knowledge caused the same questions to flood back into young John’s mind. “How then could he allow himself to be killed, what did he mean risen from the dead, when would this occur, why not just reveal himself to the Pharisees?”

Peter broke the silence “Why then do the scribes say Elijah must come first?” “Indeed Elijah is coming and will restore all things, but I say to you Elijah has come already and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they wished.” Jesus replied.

Rant
What a sight this must have been, how unexplainable and yet uncontainable. It must have been excruciating to keep quiet about such an event, surely when the three disciples rejoined the others it was visible on their faces that something incredible had occurred, certainly questions were asked but I have no doubt that after being witness to this transfiguration the three didn’t say a peep.
This to me is a glimpse, however small and clouded it might be because of our limited finite perspective from this world; of what it will be like on that day when like a flash the truth is made known to all. I can not imagine the horror it will cause in many as all of us are laid bare by His glorious presence. Their will be no more hiding, rationalizing, or excusing of what we have made of our lives, of what we have made of God’s Son.

There was a time in my life that I really believed I could stand before God and debate Him as if He were an equal or that I could even stand in judgment of Him. We, as these disciples here, have a tendency to pull God down and make Him small, to think we can figure Him out and then begin to think we might do a better job of being the Creator. Imagine a mosquito landing on your shoulder and trying to explain to you how you’ve been getting many things in life wrong and you’ll be on your way to starting to grasp how ridiculous it is to not have complete reverence for God in His immensity and governance. We must read His word and commune with His Spirit daily and allow Him to stretch us, our perspective, our knowledge, and our understanding to begin to see our true position as His created beings. Like it or not we belong to Him completely and on the day we stand before Him we will be struck and convicted wholly with the knowledge that we never were our own, and that every single thing we ever had was given to us by Him alone. Whatever happiness, contentment, or completeness we will have found in this life will be due solely to our life’s response to His Son and nothing else. All the running about to serve our own pleasures and not His Son will be made abundantly clear as we give an accounting.
The chair you sit in reading this is made up of millions of swirling molecules and atoms that are made active by Him. He calibrates the division of cells in your blood now and also the birth of new stars
light-years away, take a deep breath and thank Him for it because He gave it to you.
He is the source of all rightness, goodness, justice, and most of all Love. These are not things He does or traits of His personality they are His essence and we His creatures created in His likeness can only utilize these things because He has bestowed them. Any separateness or individuality we believe ourselves to have is no more than an illusion that we have clutched onto in order to satisfy our own sinful nature. This idea, this lie was proposed in the garden and continues to fool millions today.
To the unchanged person the idea of belonging to someone else will be so revolting that they won’t even entertain the idea, but to those that have been born again, to those that have at least begun to walk with Christ, and have felt His presence, His peace, and His transforming light, this knowledge is much like being held in the strong and mighty arms of a grand Father that has us securely in His grasp and will never let us go.

We no longer seek or find our satisfaction in the things or sins of this world but want only to bathe in His glorious light, to stay forever in His tabernacle that He has built for us through His incredible Son.
One day we will all have an experience similar to these three here and how we have spent what He has given will be made clear to us as it is now to Him. If we have lived by the flesh this may be an experience more horrific that can be described but if we have truly sought with all we are to live by the Spirit it will be a more glorious event than can be described in worldly ways.

Breathe deep….

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Relentless
A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.7


John 6:70
70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”

As the sun hung low in the sky the Lord told young John and Peter to take the other disciples and head for Capernaum in the boat. John and Peter exchanged confused looks but said nothing to the Lord about how Jesus should get there with them. As they set off a terrible head wind came against the boat causing the rowing to be hard but not one even one of them suggested they not continue to do what the Lord had asked of them.

John heard Peter let out a loud shriek and the others joined him in horror as they looked at a figure floating over the water. “It’s an apparition!” someone shouted. Then as the figure came closer young John saw the face of his Master and he wasn’t floating but walking as if the lake were but a few inches deep. “It is I, do not be afraid!” Jesus yelled. “Tell me to come to you Lord!” Peter said. Again anger burned within John, Peter always seemed to be a few steps ahead of young John in his eagerness.
After the embarrassing question he and James had posed on the road, John was now often too concerned with looking like a fool to the Lord.

“Come on then!” Jesus cheerfully replied. Peter shook as he stepped from the boat, John watched his foot waiting and almost wishing for it to sink, but it stopped as if on solid ground just a few inches beneath the water. Peter stepped from the boat as he locked eyes with Jesus. A great wind slammed into Peter after he had taken only a couple steps making him take his eyes from the Lord and place them onto the water, he began to sink. “Lord!” Peter cried. Jesus caught him and pulled him to the boat and they both climbed in. Jesus looked Peter in the eyes with his hand on his shoulder and asked “Why did you doubt?” They fell to his feet right there in the boat and worshipped him.

The following day the crowds returned yet again as they came to the synagogue, there seemed to be no more escaping these multitudes that flocked to the Master, the disciples and Jesus began to seek places of solitude just to escape them at times.
Jesus rebuked them as they gathered saying “Very truly I tell you, you are seeking me not because you saw the signs I perform but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give you for on him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.”
“What must we do to do the work God requires”? They asked.
“The work of God is this; believe in the one He has sent.” Jesus replied.

Then young John heard them demand yet more signs from the Lord, this infuriated John, he could not understand why the Lord put up with such people, they sought only for their own gain and John could see most of them carried no real belief or desire to worship Jesus or learn from him as they the disciples did, they wished only to be healed, to be fed, and to be entertained. They could not see that something so much greater than food or even miracles were being offered by the Lord. They wanted to keep their lives and have Jesus also when Jesus wanted they’re lives entirely. They selfishly demanded to remain they’re own masters but were glad to take whatever the Lord would offer. John felt most of them were unworthy of his Lord.

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them, just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.” Jesus held his arms up before the crowd and continued. “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever!”
Shouts of rebuke and grumbles of confusion came from the crowd now.

“Does this offend you? Jesus yelled into the crowd. “Then what if you see the son of man ascends to where he was before! The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing! The words I have spoken to you- they are full of the Spirit and life.” Jesus then turned to look at the twelve as he continued. “Yet there are some of you who do not believe!” John was shocked to see Jesus take his eyes off the crowd and give them his followers a hard look as he made this accusation of unbelief. Young John searched himself and with great shame saw the doubt still within his own heart, he knew his master could also clearly see it, even after all John had seen and all they had been threw. “Is he speaking of me?” John thought to himself.
As John looked at the other twelve he could see from the hurt and shame painted on their faces that they also had found the remaining doubt Jesus spoke of within themselves.
As John watched the backs of the dispersing and grumbling crowd leave he suddenly realized that what he held in his heart that they could not grasp was not something he John had gotten for himself by his own effort or thought, but something that had been given to him. Suddenly a sense of great gratitude came upon him as he realized that if it were not for the Father he would be one of grumbling unbelievers and that the faith that held him to his Master was not by his merit but by God’s gift. With tears John realized he was no more worthy than they that hurled insults and looked for bread.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the twelve.
John gasped at even the suggestion that he would ever depart from his precious teacher and friend. He watched as again Peter was the first of the group to react, but this time John did not burn with anger or jealously toward Peter, as he had spoken words that certainly described young John’s own heart.
“Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
“Have I not chosen you the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!”

Rant
We can so easily sit in a group or click in our churches and become inflated and pompous. 
How easy would it have been for this same attitude to creep up in the very men that actually walked with Jesus? After all they were privy to information not everyone had, they had the parables explained to them, they had experiences others had not, they had special access to the Messiah. I imagine this was an attitude Jesus was constantly fighting against and I think we can see glimpses of this in the Gospels. It is interesting that after sending a confused and grumbling crowd of unbelievers away he found it necessary to tell the twelve that they were “chosen.” To me it’s as if he is saying here, you are not still here because you are somehow smarter than these bread seekers are, you are not still here because you are somehow more spiritually advanced or more special than these lost souls, no, you are still here because of one thing only, I your Savior have chosen you!

It is easy to sit in our churches and in our groups and focus on what “they” are not doing and what we are doing, what “they” are doing to break our world and what we should do to stop “them” from doing it.  What we fail to see is that the idea that there is an “us” and a “them” is an illusion, it’s a lie and it is just one of the things that keep the church from being the church. It seeks to erode and destroy the Christian church altogether.
What have we done to save ourselves? What special intelligence or spiritual attributes can we point to that has made it possible for us to get what others have not yet gotten? Why do we take our Christ given structure for living and demand those standards from people that do not believe in a Christ?
I believe we do it for one reason only, to make ourselves feel good!
When examining the things nonbelievers are doing that that they shouldn’t we’re not looking at what we are not doing that we should be.
When focusing on the unchristian lifestyles and mistakes of the still lost people living in the world we are not focusing on our own unchristian behavior and what Christ would have us do to defeat it so we might live more for the Kingdom. We should come to our groups in a humble attitude seeking to become better equipped as disciples and closer to Christ in our living so that ultimately we might better be able woo the lost into the relationship we have with Jesus. We instead waste the time we have sitting behind the walls of the church scorning the activities of those outside the church and then when we actually interact with lost worldly people, as we do often, that scornful unloving attitude is easily seen. I have but one verses heavy in my mind when I think of this anti-Christian attitude toward the very people Jesus came to this earth to save Matthew 15:8 "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
 Who will be wooed with condemnation or will feel invited with threats of damnation? Is this the attitude we see our Lord and Master Jesus Christ take toward the lost? No, he only takes that attitude toward the Pharisees that exalt themselves while condemning the lost. If this is our attitude for the lost souls of the world what will Jesus have to say to us on that fateful day we meet him?
We have been given a great gift, we have heard some incredible news and have been chosen and adopted as the children of God and He the Father sent His Son, our Brother and Lord who now commands us to Love and to Save. What we do with this gift and how we reply to these commands will have eternal implications and will no doubt be the focus of conversation when we meet the God/Man we profess to follow.

Once the curtain on our life has closed the opportunity for action will be over. When will the curtain close?


Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
C.T Studd