Monday, March 30, 2015

LIVING LIKE LAZARUS

MOST OF US KNOW THE STORY OF LAZARUS, sick friend of Jesus, whom Jesus waits to visit until he’s dead. Upset sisters. Jesus weeps. Raises Lazarus from the dead. Sets him free from his clothes of death. All in a day’s work for the Messiah!  (Don’t remember? Read all about it here: John 11:1-57.)

Like all good stories and this is more than just a good story, there’s more to it, the story moves on. When Jesus raises you from the dead your life can never be the same again. Some people are ecstatic with joy! If you’re Lazarus, you may be a little perplexed. And then there are those who are those I like to refer to as the “joy-suckers.”  Their place in this world is the suck the life out of anything that brings life and joy.  In Jesus’ day a lot of those were part of a fun-loving group called the Sanhedrin.  (John 11:46-53; John 12:10-11)

Back to our buddy Lazarus.  There’s not a whole lot we know about him. He had two sisters, Mary and Martha.  He lived (and died, at least once) in Bethany. He was a friend of Jesus, that’s a great thing if you’re sick and moving toward death, (which we all are.) He was brought back to life by Jesus and became a local celebrity; everybody was dropping by to see a living miracle. (John 12:9)

Now, if Jesus raises you from the dead, it carries with it certain responsibilities like thankfulness, staying close to Jesus, making sure that even though there are many coming to see you, you’re not to be the main point of attention. Remember, you didn't raise you from the dead, Jesus did! And, oh yeah, not everybody is going to believe you were really dead and they’re not too happy you’re a live either.  Spoil sports!

There is a lesson for those of us whom Jesus has raised from our spiritual death. Remember the Scriptures tell us that apart from surrendering our life to Jesus, and placing our faith in Him and His atoning death upon the cross and the power of His resurrection we are dead (present-tense) because of our sins. (Romans 3:23-26; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:4-10)  The good news is that He has raised us (past-tense) to a newness of life, a life that is to be life for His glory.  A life that is to bring attention not to us, but to Him!

So, here’s my strong suggestion: let’s live lives like Lazarus! Let’s allow Jesus to raise us from our spiritual deathbed. Let His Word loose us from our shroud of death so that we can walk freely, living for Him. Let us live lives that draw attention to the life-giving power of Jesus by our thankfulness, our constant drawing near to Him and through the proclamation of both word and deed.

Sure, not everybody is going to be thrilled with you message of God’s grace, but hey, you've been raised from the dead by your friend!  How cool is that?! For we can say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6; Psalm 118:5-9)


Live the resurrected life! 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

JESUS ROCKS!!!

SOME OF THE PHARISEES IN THE CROWD said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” He replied, “if they keep quiet the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:39-40)   I kind of wish that the crowd would have fallen deathly quiet and then those stones on the road would have let loose with the first Jesus rock concert! That would have been a sound for sore ears!

The question that comes to my wondering mind is how in fact would these inanimate objects have made the sound that filled in for the missing “Hosannas” to the King of kings and Lord of lords? Would the ground have shaken in an earthquake? Would tiny mouths appear and begin to praise the Promised One, the Messiah? Some scholars believe that Jesus was not referring to the stones upon the ground, but the stones that made up the Temple which stood at the center of the city of Jerusalem.

Truthfully, we’ll never know (this side of heaven), but to think in this manner is to truly miss the point of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees. Jesus’ rebuke was a statement to the blindness and deafness of those condemning religious leaders. In some sense the word of the Lord was declaring even these inanimate objects of My creation know more and see more than you. What a powerful indictment!

The discussion of that day over 2,000 years ago is still relevant today. Will we allow our eyes, ears and hearts to be open to the reality of the One who is alive in our midst? Will we declare with our voices praise to God for His indescribable gift in the Person of Jesus, the Messiah? (2 Corinthians 9:10-15; Romans 5:12-15)

Today is the day we must stand and rock with the church throughout the ages declaring,

Hosanna!
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD!

Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”


Monday, March 23, 2015

THE BETRAYAL

The Betrayal of Christ
THE BETRAYAL BY JUDAS .  .  . WHY did he do it? Was he chosen by God? Is that fair? Why didn't he repent in his remorse as Peter did? There was opportunity. There was time. Was there not forgiveness, too? 

Do I betray Jesus for something less?
Are not all things less?
Do I kill,
Then rebell?
My heart broken,
So I betray.
My heart is then broken,
And broken it remains.
My self-inflicted wound,
Deeper than His,
Or so I believe.
I forsook Him,
No forgiveness for the forsaken.
To betray Him is to
Betray self.
I took the opportunities afforded me,
Now no opportunity is afforded.
Betrayal for silver
To purchase my grave.
Better to hang forgotten,
Than to live forsaken.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

THE RIPPLE EFFECT!

Capillary wave/Ripple effect
LAST WEEK I HAD THE HONOR of officiating at the memorial service for Jeanne Dangers and though all memorial services have their somber aspects and moments of grief, over the past 38 years of ministry I have found that I usually walk away with a deeper appreciation for the individual being honored.  This was so very true for last Sunday.

I have known Jeanne, and her late husband, Jack, since my days of youth ministry here at Felton Bible Church (aka The Evangelical Free Church of Felton.)  Jeanne was a quiet, unassuming child of God and yet the impact of her life in her family and in her missionary work in the then Belgian Congo, has produced an ongoing ripple effect that continues today almost 35 years since she and Jack had retired from full-time missionary work. 

The ripple effect of a small stone landing in a vast lake would seem to not have much effect. We have seen ripples moving out from the center and slowly flattening out and they soon become unnoticeable upon the surface of the water.

So, why after so many years has the ripple effect from Jeanne’s life continued? I believe it is because Jesus Christ was at the center of Jeanne’s life and when He is there His Presence can insure that the ripples continue on long after the stone has been cast and is resting unseen on the lake’s bottom.

I believe that many in attendance last Sunday afternoon listened to the stories of the long-term effects of those ripples, and quietly prayed, “Lord, may my life cause those long-lasting ripples that affect people for Your Kingdom.”  You can see some of those ripples by checking-out New Hope Uganda and the work of The Tandala Hospital)

The good news is that our lives can have that same effect if we allow Christ to be the Rock at the center of our lives and if we stand humbly, ready to sink away so that His glory can be seen and experienced.


Lord, so cast us in the water!

Monday, March 16, 2015

ROAD CLOSED!

THE FLASHING SIGN IN DOWNTOWN Felton seems to say it clearly enough, “Road Closed 1.5 Miles Ahead!”  It’s a big sign too, that changes to other warnings about the roadclosure, and did I mention, it’s FLASHING RED?

So, you’d think that a person would read the sign and say to them self, “Self, if I need to travel more than 1.5 miles down Highway 9, I’d better find another route.” But, noooooo, they just keep on driving, well ok, not everyone, but enough to make you wonder if they can’t read maybe they shouldn't be driving!

Seriously, it’s usually guys on super-fast motorcycles or cars that are way beyond my price-range, that think the sign is either: 1) wrong, 2) doesn’t apply to them, or 3) they’ll find a way to get around it.  Sadly, these folks who I see and hear racing past our neighborhood are less than five-minutes later racing back up the highway. Go figure!

Of course, can you really blame them?. When you think about it, it’s part of our human nature to not believe the signs that are posted for our own good, if not for our own protection. It’s been part of our nature since that whole event of disobedience in the Garden of Eden. 

God says, “Don’t touch! Don’t eat!”
Serpent (Satan) says, “Ah, God really didn’t mean it, go ahead, can’t hurt ya.”
Adam and Eve say, “Heck, what’s to lose? We can always turn around, right?”
(Please note: This is my loose translation from the original Hebrew. Hey did Adam and Eve even speak Hebrew!?)

You see, we all read the signs, we all know the rules. In fact, the Bible says that God’s commands have been clear to all of us, to the point that none of us are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-32)  But the good news is, that in Christ Jesus we have the opportunity to turn (repent, is what the Bible calls it) and receive forgiveness for our sins and travel God’s new road made especially for us. The road paved with grace that leads to God’s love, freedom, peace and joy.


If you can read the signs, it’s not too late to turn around and enjoy the glorious journey of following Jesus.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

CAUGHT

HOW EXCRUCIATING HUMILIATING it must have been for the woman caught in the act of adultery. (John 8:1-11)  To be dragged from the act into the Temple courts and thrown at the feet of Jesus by the Pharisees who were seeking to catch Jesus in His words.

There is nothing quite like getting caught in the act.  It is humiliating and worse, shameful. There is no hiding, and for this woman all those gathered in the presence of the Messiah were now witnesses to her pain and her shame. Given the crowd assembled, I am sure they did their best to burn that shame deep into her soul through their steady guilt-enhancing gaze.

Notice what the Master does. He bends down and writes in the dirt of the Temple floor. Many have speculated what he wrote. Some think it was the sins of the Pharisees, some think He was taking time to think, or to blow off some steam before He let the Pharisees have it!

Jesus’ response is one of grace, even to the Pharisees who didn't care two-hoots for the woman or for Jesus. They just wanted both of them caught and done away with. Yet, Jesus’ statement, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” silences the accusers and cuts through the condemning gazes and soon all leave, acknowledging in the process their own sin and guilt.

So, just what did Jesus write in the dirt? We’ll never know, but one thing in certain, in His bending down He drew close to the woman, close enough to possibly whisper, “It will be okay.” Once everyone had left, Jesus, through His depth of compassion, sets the woman free from condemnation. But He also challenges her to not miss this gift of grace, and to go and sin no more.


As I contemplate the story I become thankful, for the Lord’s finger in the dirt patience that allows for grace to be given and for grace to be received.  

Sunday, March 01, 2015

THE UNAPPRECIATED GIFT

WE ALL HAVE RECEIVED A GIFT that we really didn't like, but we choked out a “thank you” anyway.  When the party was over and the guests had left the gift went quickly into what I call the “Abbott’s Bag.”  That’s the stuff that is going to be dropped-off at the Abbott’s Thrift Shop with hopes that the person who gave me the gift doesn't find in on the thrift shop’s shelves on a later date.

It’s not that I didn't need the gift, but I didn't like the color, or the style, or I already had received some of the same type of gifts in the past, and well, it just wasn’t me. Sounds a little ungrateful and unkind I know, but I surmise you’ve been there yourself once or twice. Besides, how else does the Abbott’s Thrift Store get all that stuff?!

Our heavenly Father gives us lots of gifts as well. And we appreciate them, or at least we should! One such gift is the gift of worship. Think about it. We have been given the opportunity through the atoning death of Jesus Christ, to boldly approach the throne of God without the fear of being incinerated by His glory. Check out Isaiah 6:1-8, or Exodus 19 for a couple of examples of standing near the glory of God. Yet, in Hebrews 4:15-16 we are told that we can approach the LORD because Jesus is there with us as the High Priest.

Sadly though, we often take the opportunity to gather for worship for granted, or worse, we don’t take it at all. We don’t see that our ability to come and worship the great I AM, the sovereign God, Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer is truly one of the most wonderful gifts we could receive. God could keep us far away, not allowing us close as He directed the people of Israel, but instead He has called us up His mountain as He called Moses (Exodus 24:1-18).


Therefore, as you come to worship, receive it as a gift and give thanks to our gracious, gift-giving Abba God.