Archive for March, 2022

Christ Still Asks: “Do You Love Me?”

John 21: 14 – 17

Jesus often endures our embarrassing abuse, denial, and betrayal only to come back compassionately to restore us to an even more meaningful love relationship with Him.

On the eve of His crucifixion His disciples showed no staying power when pressure was applied by the accusing Romans who came to arrest Him in Gethsemane. They became instant mutineers. They were a disgrace to their declared devotion as they fled for their lives.

Commitment is the capacity to carry out the intent of a decision long after the emotion that inspired it has faded.

Let’s review the aftermath of the disciples’ disgraceful debacle in Gethsemane. Observe various parts of the interchange and see their significance.

Jesus said, “unto them, come and dine” (Vs. 12). The expression “unto them” is dative of advantage, meaning it was to their advantage to do as invited.  Whatever Christ asks us to do is always to our advantage.

In the Greek text “come” is a participle of exhortation. It was the strongest word of instruction He could use.

It is plural and thus the invitation was to all the disciples.

The appeal to “dine” is in the imperative mood, noting it as a command.

It is aorist tense, inferring it was to have future results.

The active voice stresses that each must do it for himself.

These same principles are inherent in all of Christ’s invitations to us.

Jesus had a fire built (Vs. 9). Biblically, fire always spoke of judgment. Jesus pictorially walked to the fire, typifying the fact He, too, was their, and our judgment on Calvary.

Bread was provided by Christ. Bread had always symbolized basic provisions. Christ “gave” it to them. This is emblematic of His provisions for us. His provisions make us operative.

Fish were also provided. Fish were a longstanding symbol of productivity.

Judgment always comes first. The fire was foremost.

Next, He provides provisions that enable us to act. He makes our productivity possible.

Jesus posed a question applicable to us: “Do you love me?”

After this and other encounters with the resurrected Christ, these cowering disciples became changed people. At the peril of their lives they went out and changed the world. Their transformed lives is one of the best proofs of the resurrection. People would not risk their lives to defend a lie or for that matter a disgraced dead man. He was alive and that gave their lives purpose. It does the same for people today. 

He is Immanuel, God with us — daily. He still asks, “Do you love me?”  What is your answer?

It’s About Time – Bible Time: Three Days and Three Nights

A question lingering after the celebration of the resurrection relates to time, the time between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. 

Having visited the Bible Land many times, I have always enjoyed visiting remote regions among the Bedouins who live today very much like first century life. Exact time matters little to them. I once asked the age of a certain child. The answer was: “Who knows? Who counts years, days, and seconds?”

Even in modern times different cultures record time differently. Before the introduction of Standard Time in the 1880s, different countries, states, and even neighboring towns, kept their own time with no attempt at consistency. Even though clocks, and later watches, are widely available, much of the world still today estimated their time by the natural rhythms of the Sun and Moon until late into the 19th Century.

Stonehenge in Britain was probably built to measure time. It measured the year by the sunrise and sunset angle on the horizon. It is possible to use other, easily observed, signs of the passage of days. The annual disappearance and reappearance of the stars has been used by many cultures. Natural signs such as the blossoming or fruiting of particular plants or the migrations of birds have also been used to mark the passing of the seasons.

In counting days and nights in the time of Christ it was done differently than today. In light of all this, it is easy to see why there are questions related to the issue of three days and three nights.

In the time of Christ any part of a day was considered a full day. That is, a “day” was not considered as a full 24 hour interval.

We consider a day as beginning at sunup followed by daylight with night coming after the daylight hours.

In the Jewish tradition a day began with sundown. The night (dark) was counted before the actual daylight.

Thus when the sun set on Thursday that was the night part of a new day, Friday.

Hence, Friday was one night and day, 

Friday night at sundown day two began.

Saturday at sundown day three began.

This accounts as three days and three nights. To try to understand it based on our reckoning of time is not proper. It must be based on how days were reckoned in Bible times.

The important issue is not how long His lifeless body was in the tomb, but in the fact it did not stay there, He arose from the dead to give life, eternal life, to all who engage in a form of trust of Him that involves responding to Him as not only Savior, but Master to whom they are obedient.

Every one of winter’s dead bows that blossoms speaks of resurrection.

The Rose of Sharon arose.

People, Places, and Events Regarding the Crucifixion and Resurrection

THE MOUNT OF OLIVES. Jewish tribes coming to Jerusalem in the Bible era always camped in the same places. Those from Galilee always camped on the southern end of the Mount of Olives. To get from Bethany, where Jesus had spent the night, to Jerusalem from there Jesus had to travel through their encampment. Galileans knew Jesus, much of His ministry was performed there. On His way to Jerusalem He passed through their encampment. As He did, they shouted “Hosanna” and other praises. He was their champion. Galleans being rural people, farmers, shepherds, and fishermen, they wanted the Romans driven out. Their motivation for shouting praise was likely not of Him as Messiah, but potential liberator. It was nonetheless fitting praise.

Later in Jerusalem the religious and merchandising community led the crowd shouting “Crucify Him,” They were profiting from the business provided by the Romans and wanted to placate them, thus they were inclined to condemn Jesus.

It was not the same crowd shouting the two different expressions as commonly thought in Western culture. 

THE CAVE IN GETHSEMANE. After an extended and exhausting day in Jerusalem, Jesus went to a place well known to Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was already too exhausted to climb the Mount of Olives and return to Bethany.

In the garden was a cave still in existence today. Jesus was in it when Roman soldiers came for Him. The text says Jesus “went out” to meet them. The Greek text means “He went out from within” to meet them. This further indicates He was within some enclosure, the cave.

A BOARD GAME AT CALVARY. Scripture notes Roman soldiers gambled for Jesus’ garments at Calvary. There was a game popular with Roman soldiers called the Basalie, or King’s Game. The markings would have been made on a stone. In playing the game a criminal, and if one was not available a straw man, was mocked as a king and abused. In that instance Jesus was their mock king being belittled .

ON CALVARY’S HILL. There is no evidence in the Bible Calvary was a hill or mount. The concept was made popular by Cecil Francis Alexander (1818-95) in a hymn regarding the crucifixion entitled, “There Is A Green Hill Faraway.”

THE HEIGHT OF THE CROSS. Jesus was offered a sip from a sponge on a reed. Such reeds were approximately 18″ long. Thus, His head was about 9″ to 10″ high, no higher. 

THE CROSS. The cross was not made of dogwood according to a popular thought. Dogwoods don’t grow in Israel or the region. It’s shape may have been as is normally thought. However, Romans crucified many people using anything that resembled a cross, such as the fork of a tree. Some were even “X” or “T” shaped.

GUARDS AT THE TOMB. Jewish leaders asked Pilate for a guard to make certain the tomb was secure. Shortly before this Herod had disgracefully divorced his wife, the daughter of the King of the Nabataeans, Aretas domiciled in Petra. Aretas retaliated by engaging Herod’s forces in battle east of the Dead Sea. Herod’s forces suffered heavy losses in the battle. There were scarcely enough to keep the peace during the festival apart from Roman soldiers. In response to the request made of Pilate the scarceness of Jewish forces prompted Him to say, “You have a guard.” It is commonly thought he was giving them a guard.. However, it is more likely he was saying “You have a guard, your Temple Guard, use the guard you have.” This being true there were not members of Herod’s forces or Roman soldiers at the tomb resurrection morning, but Jewish members of the Temple Guard.

REGARDLESS of such details as these, it is the FACT Jesus suffered, died, and was resurrected for our sins. It is that we celebrate at Easter.

The Third Noel 12/26/99

Luke 2:29-32

JESUS CHRIST’s birth resulted in polyphony of praise offered by angels and earthlings alike. Mary offered the first Noel, “The Magnificat.”

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoiced in God my Savior.”

The first expression refers to letting God’s sufficiency be observable in her life in a broader sphere. Are you willing to let God demonstrate His sufficiency to guard, guide, and govern in your life? Will you live in such a way that others may see Jesus in you and be attracted to Him. That is how we magnify God. It is by letting Him be seen more clearly through us.

In her second expression she revealed her elation in that a Savior was being provided for her and all human kind. Have you joyfully responded to Christ acknowledging with great gladness Him as Savior? If not do it now.

The angels shared the second Noel, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, good will toward men!”

Now the third Noel. Forty days after Christ’s birth Mary and Joseph left Bethlehem and journeyed about ten miles to neighboring Jerusalem and the Temple for a special service of consecration. There lived in the Bible land at that time a group known as “the Quiet in the Land.” They had no dreams of powerful marching armies with banners, no aspirations for violence. They believed in lives of quiet watchfulness and constant prayer. Among them was an old man named Simeon.

Forty days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph came to the temple to comply with a Jewish religious right. They came to make a sacrifice to God. The normal sacrifice was a lamb. Provisions were made for the poor, those who couldn’t afford a lamb. They could offer a pair of turtle doves. The poverty of Mary and Joseph is revealed in their offering of doves.

In the temple Mary and Joseph encountered the elderly Simeon who voiced the third Noel: “Nunc Dimittis,” which in Latin means “Now let Thy servant depart.”

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation. Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2: 29 – 32).

The summary of Simeon’s message is one of hope. For centuries Israel had hoped for the coming of Messiah. Simeon himself had kept a long vigil in the temple in anticipation of His coming. He lived by hope. Do you? Keep it alive. It energizes life and empowers effort. Hope for tomorrow enables us to bear the burdens of today.

Hope is good for our health. Dr. Harold G. Wolff wrote: “Hope, like faith and a purpose in life, is medicinal. This is not merely a statement of belief, but a conclusion proved by meticulously controlled scientific experiments.” (“What Hope Does For Man,” The Saturday Evening Post, 1\5\57)

Right now turn in your Bible to Romans 15:13 and mark it resolving to make it a life long project. Let it be your code for life.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Couple that with the realization that “The hope set before us …. is like an anchor for our lives, and anchor safe and sure” (Hebrews 6:19).

That hope is in Christ. He is our anchor.

In Simeon’s statement he reveals Christ to be:

I. HE IS A STANDARD (Luke 2: 30 – 32)
He is God the Father’s standard for ALL PEOPLE. He is as obtrusive and fixed as the stars in the solar system. His coming resulted in the “taking off from the Gentiles the veil.” His coming was intended to be the crowning glory of Israel.

The artist, Rossetti, has painted a humble oriental house with Jesus looking out a window. There, as of then unrepentant Mary Magdalene, is frolicking down the street with a rowdy group. She turns her head and their gazes meet. On her face is an expression of horror and dismay. In His face she sees herself as she is and is filled with self- loathing, self-disgust. Jesus reveals to each of us what we think of our self = humble or arrogant, AND of God = skeptical or submissive.

Christ is the standard established by the Tri-Unity before the dawn of creation. People portend to judge Him but in reality we and all persons are judged by Him. We judge ourselves by how we judge Him. If when confronted with His love for Him we respond positively it results in our salvation. Thus, many will rise. If we respond negatively it consequents in our condemnation. Thus, many will fall.

Some denominations set standards called by various titles as the means of measuring spirituality. They require a person to do good works to earn, merit, or deserve God’s favor. Persons living under this system of beliefs are always in suspense. Repeatedly they must ask themselves, “Have I done enough good to compensate for the bad I’ve done?” When is enough —- enough? We can always find someone we are better than. However, there is always someone better than we. Suppose God graded on the curve. We simply score ourselves on the basis of how well others score.

First, question: What’s a passing grade?

Then along came Jesus and He aced the test. He lived a perfect sinless life. None can compare: “For all have sinned and come short of the grace of God.” “There is none righteous, no not one.”

The Lord wants to make it perfectly clear Jesus is the standard.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).

By this Standard, established by Heaven, Christ, many rise and fall. Within eighty years of His death a governor of a Roman province wrote: “People are deserting pagan temples, and are gathering in illegal conventicles to worship somebody who it was always understood, had a name of infamy – one Christus, who had been put to an ignominious death years before.”

Within 300 years a Christian occupied the throne of Caesar and was guarded by soldiers bearing scars from persecution resulting from them being Christians.

Faith in the Living God had broken the bonds of nationalism and exclusiveness. The “salvation” offered is for “all people.”

This was a shocker to people who were expecting a restrictive deliverer. YOU are in included in the statement in Verse 30. Christ came to die for you.

With a new millennium many persons are seeking spiritual cleansing and guidance. In searching the Bible be logical and don’t hesitate to ask for help in understanding.

In Lansing, Michigan three sisters were arrested for riding around in a stolen van naked coated with mustard. They had read the account of Adam and Eve in their naked state so they thought it to be proper to be naked before God. They had read the passage regarding having faith the size of a mustard seed so they coated themselves with mustard. I don’t know what symbolism the stolen van had. In this way they were seeking to earn God’s favor.

II. HE IS A SWORD (Luke 2:35)
A sword? Yes, a sword. A sword pierces and divides. This He does. A stand for Him divides those who follow Him from the world.

Ask a teenage girl left out of all the party invitations because she will not forfeit her virtue what is meant by the sword. She has been cut off by her faith and stand for Christ.

Ask a young male who will not drink and use drugs what it means for the sword to fall. He is cut out of the gang.

Ask a business executive who will not cheat or compromise because of faith in Christ what it means for the sword to be applied.

Ask a young homemaker who will not give in to the “soap society” what the sword principle means.

Neutrality accomplishes nothing positive. It is an evasion of responsibility. In ancient Athenian democracy a citizen was stripped of all rights of citizenship if he refused to take sides in moral and political issues.

Webster defines “neutrality” as “not being engaged on either side.” Edmund Burke pointed out this vice in his often quoted statement: “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.”

In the Revelation neutrality is described as being neither “hot nor cold,” and is graphically represented as the sin that nauseates God. Christ said of the Laodicean church, which He described as neither hot nor cold, that He would “spew them out” of His mouth. That is, literally, to vomit them up.

Dante vividly got specific: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a time of great moral crisis, maintained their neutrality.”

A “certain Samaritan” received Christ’s commendation because he got involved when a priest and a Levite were neutral.

Dean W.R. Inge pointed his index finger of accusation at the uninvolved segment of Christianity when he wrote: “Christianity is a creed for heroes and we are harmless, good-natured little people who want everybody to have a good time.”

Get involved in what you believe. Happiness is a by-product of a job well done. One reason for so many unhappy Christians is they are uninvolved.

III. HE IS A SIGN (Luke 2:34c)
“Darkness” represents sins.

“Light” represents righteous living.

Simeon took Jesus in his arms. Have you taken a grip on Jesus?

Simeon’s life climaxed upon seeing the Christ child and he exclaimed: “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace” (Luke 2: 29).

In this climatic time in history with a millennium ending and a new one about to be birthed does the old one’s passing find you conditioned to depart in peace. If not take Christ unto yourself and be prepared for the new millennium with new life.

As the year 1900 approached many leading secular thinkers including George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells, argued that the dawning of the 20th century would mark the close of history’s religious phase. That is, that mankind would no longer need religion.

Futurist, Faith Popcorn, in an interview on December 9, 1999, said the new millennium would be one focusing on spiritual values. People will be trying to gain a better understanding of spiritual values.

Now will you prepare to enter the new millennium with a commitment to Christ that will make the new era one in which He is your guide?

How to Relate to Loneliness

PSALMS 25: 16 – 21

Jesus knew loneliness.  If you have ever experienced loneliness, He can relate to you.

Loneliness is an emotional epidemic. It’s rampant.

Loneliness started in the Garden of Eden and continues today.

King David knew its pain and described his despair thus: “I am like a sparrow alone on the housetop.” Have you ever felt that way? Most of us have —  and will.

Specific causes of loneliness are numerous. However, most can be classified in one of two categories. Both had their origin in Eden.

First, our Creator said, “Let us make man in our own image…” Biblically God and Adam are then represented as “walking together in the garden.” This is terminology meaning they had fellowship. We were created for the high and lofty purpose of fellowship with God.

God made man, Adam, and said, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make for him a help mate.” (Genesis 2:8)

Thus, a relationship was begun between two people. In creating a help mate God provided for companionship.

Loneliness results when one or both of these relationships is disrupted.

Loneliness entered the world before sin. It was the only thing in God’s freshly created world that the Creator declared “not good.” 

Christ confirmed our capacity of companionship when He said, “Love one another.” (John 15: 12)

Romans 14: 7 states a stellar truth: “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.”

God gave us a need for people. All persons need to work at developing their interpersonal skills. Personality development and communication skills should be worked on. Try to be likable.

The Scripture says: “He who would have friends must show himself friendly.” (Proverbs 18: 24) To have a friend, be a friend.

We need to learn from Jesus who sought lonely places in which to pray. Perhaps much of our loneliness is allowed by God as an attempt to provide us opportunity for fellowship with Him through prayer.

Studies show high loneliness and low spiritual well-being often go together.

Loneliness is a megaphone used by God to call us to Himself. C.S. Lewis said, “He whispers to us in our joys, speaks to us in our conscience, and shouts to us in our pain.”

Often loneliness is God’s way of saying I am here to love you and meet your needs. Fellowship with Him through reading the Bible, praying, worshiping, and fellowship with other believers.

Perhaps at this moment you need to pray the content of our text: “Turn yourself to me, and have mercy on me, for I am desolate (lonely) and afflicted….”