The Miracle of the Cross
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
At the very moment when Jesus died, miracles began to occur, one after another.
First, the veil in the temple is torn from top to bottom. Only God could tear it from the top. This veil was a heavy curtain that blocked the entrance to the Holy of Holies in the temple. Then, we read that the earth was shaken. That there was a significant earthquake, strong enough to split rocks. Then tombs broke open, and the Lord raised holy people back to life. The resurrected then entered Jerusalem, and started appearing to people.
The sun was darkened, the earth shaken, temple curtain torn, and dead people were walking around. The centurion and soldiers were terrified, and rightly so!
Why? In that moment they knew. They knew that they had killed the Son of God. When they witnessed these miracles at the death of Jesus they exclaimed, ‘Surely this was the Son of God’.
I wish I could have witnessed these miracles that they had seen, including the dead being raised to life and seeing them make a statement of worship, acknowledging who Jesus Christ truly was…
But then I realize that I have witnessed an even greater miracle being made possible because of the cross. My heart which was dead to God, unable to love Him, unable to know him, and doomed to an eternity apart from him, has been brought to life. Given the gift of forgiveness, the gift of righteousness, the gift of His presence, the very gift of life. And that life is not just for today, but for all of eternity. It brings my heart to the same place of worship to the God who performed the greatest miracle in my own life.
One week to Live – One week to Life!
Many people love getting up early and going to work when it is still dark. I’m not one of them. But Jesus was. In fact, He LOVED staying up ALL NIGHT and praying to His Heavenly Father – while his disciples slept (my kind of guys)! Now that is passion, that is love, that is sacrifice – that drives a person to stay up all night. But I gotta admit watching the sunrise out of darkness is a beautiful experience, and this past few months I have experienced it due to changes in my work schedule that have me up a 5:30 am, on the bus at 6:30 am, and enjoying dawn as the sun breaks over Black Mountain. His creation is beautiful, isn’t it?! So as I was reflecting on what Jesus must have been thinking and experiencing during his last week on earth before His crucifixion, it occurred to me to consider the parallels between His week of crucifixion (Mark 11 – 16), and His week of creation (Genesis 1/John 1), consider this and ask yourself some questions:
Creation Week: He spoke and brought Light into darkness
Crucifixion Week: Jesus, the Light of the world, road a colt into Jerusalem and the people laid down palm leaves as they sang – Blessed is he who comes in the name of The Lord! Hosanna! Hosanna!
Question: How is your little light shining?
Creation Week: He clears the air, separating the waters above (the sky) from those below (the oceans)
Crucifixion Week: Jesus cleared the air; He clears the temple, speaking the truth, “It is written . . . “!
Question: Are you speaking His truth, studying His truth?
Creation Week: He gathers the seas and creates the dry land where we live, plants and trees, seed bearing vegetation
Crucifixion Week: Jesus each night slept on the grass among the rocks and olive trees on the Mount of Olives; He preferred sleeping in His own bed. His last supper, simple fare, bread made from wheat, wine from grapes
Question: Are you sowing His seeds – His gospel – into yourself, your children, your world?
Creation Week: He hangs the sun and moon so we can mark sacred festivals, days, nights, and seasons
Crucifixion Week: Jesus prophecies, instructs His disciples, and readies the upper room, to celebrate Passover.
Question: What season are you in? Do you take time to celebrate Gods work in your life?
Creation Week: He creates the fishes and other sea critters, and the birds
Crucifixion Week: Jesus is the greatest fisherman of all time, of men’s’ souls; He said “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.” And He has called us to follow His example (Matthew 28), to teach the gospel to all men.
Question: Are we fishers of men? Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. Jesus said we will always have the poor with us, the early church clearly saw its social responsibility to care for those less fortunate. How are you doing in service to your community? Do you regularly volunteer to help? To serve? Too busy with other important matters? Jesus knew that we are all busy with important matters at hand; He was busy too; Yet He reminds us that “It is more blessed to give than receive.”
Creation Week: He creates animals and man and woman, with the command to be fruitful and multiply. The Psalmist says that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139). Do you realize how much our Lord delights in you, so much He can’t take His eyes off of you? Look around at God’s creation; explore nature – He has called it ‘good’ – He is pleased with His creation!
Crucifixion Week: Jesus is anointed with perfume, betrayed by Judas, tortured by Pilate, and crucified by Rome. The only person our Heavenly Father EVER turned His back on was Jesus hanging on the cross. All part of His divine plan, His perfect son, our perfect sacrifice. Greater love has no man than this! He made Him who knew no sin to die for us, the perfect sacrifice, once for ALL!
Question: Do you realize how much God loves you – so much He sacrificed His only son, for you! (John 3:16) Are we being good stewards of the bounty The Lord has commanded us to care for? Have you counted the cost? After Peter’s denial of Him 3 times at His torture and crucifixion, after He rose again, Jesus asked Peter 3 times, “Do you love me?” Peter replied each time, “Yes Lord, you know I do!” He told Peter to feed His sheep, His church. Do you love Jesus? Are you feeding His sheep?
Creation Week: God rested; it was finished. He was pleased with His creation and took time to admire it!
Crucifixion Week: Jesus’ work on earth was finished in human terms, but not spiritual. His earthly body lay still in the tomb since the previous day. Yet in the spirit, Jesus was now doing all -important work, taking back the keys of sin and death from our enemy the Devil, reconciling us with God, so that we might have life, life eternal. From creation, Jesus has always had His eyes on us, His goal being our salvation, our ultimate life and peace eternally with God.
Question: Be still and know that Jesus is God, our Lord and Savior (Psalm 46:10). How well do you know Him, how often and how long do you spend time with Him, how much do you delight in Him? Psalm 37:4 suggests that if we delight in Him, He will give you desires of your heart – what does that mean to you? Will it be what you desire, or what He desires for you? Or perhaps both? There is only one way to find out! (John 14:6)
Psalm 121:- I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence does my help come. My help comes from The Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, he who keeps you will not slumber, indeed, neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you – He is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore!
A Stones Throw Away
He withdrew about a stones throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed.
There are seasons when we’re so sick and tired that we’re numb. The battles of life have worn us down and we’re so beat up that we can’t feel anything beyond our pain. The sun in shining outside, but inside its all clouds and darkness. We cry out to God for relief, yet we don’t hear anything. We wonder if He hears us. Deep down we even may dare to start thinking, ‘do you really exist?’
Faith cannot be about feelings alone. It’s times like these that we need trust what the bible teaches us. To hang on every word written for times such as this. To me it’s like being in a shipwreck, and finding a piece of floating wood that I can hang on to. I may not know where I am, and my bearings are totally off, but as long as I can cling to the lifesaving word of God, I have hope. I may be floating now, but I know from experience that I will feel firm ground under my feet once again. You just need to trust in Him. To rest in Him. Some of Jesus’ words are; ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’ ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’
Friend, you may be going through a Gethsemane experience of your own, but remember our Lord has gone through it too. He understands every single thing about you, and always has you in His sight. He could have retreated far away and left His disciples alone while dealing with His pain and anguish during one of the darkest times of His life, but He didn’t. Jesus kept them in His sight, even though they took their eyes off of Him. He is near you, and even if all you can do is utter a whisper, hang in there ….because He’s only just a stone’s throw away.
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Ps 145:18
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
Zero wiggle room? Check. Dealing with polarizing extremes? Check. Controversial subject matter? Check.
Being completely in or completely out is a recurring theme that I see in the Bible.
Instead of the knife edged line between being with Jesus and being against him, we’ve allowed such a wide and stagnant space to exist that many are easily caught up in. I know I’m guilty of this- Gathering on Sunday… Scattering Monday through Friday; Following Jesus today and following my desires the next.
It becomes a sort of stalemate, an impasse so large that I’m able to wander aimlessly in the desert of this ‘in-between’ for years and years. It can be a place of comfort, complacency, and powerless living.
Unbeknownst to us, unwilling to commit whole-heartedly to following the one true King, is in and of itself, a pledge in the opposite direction.
I remember hearing Roger preach that God wants so much more than just our money (a sermon in regards to tithing) He wants all of us; every aspect of who we are. He calls us to relinquish total authority over every jurisdiction of our lives. It’s the enemy who seems willing to settle for the scraps, but it’s God who demands not just our mind, but our body and our spirit as well. There is a cost.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.
It’s unreasonable for the captan of a ship to complain about the lack of his nautical progress, if he refuses to draw in the anchor or set the sails. Truthfully, I oftentimes find myself in the same metaphorical boat (pun intended). frustrated with the efficacy of my faith, and even God for my lack of spiritual progress, even though it’s me who continues to hold on to things that I shouldn’t. Being stubborn to abandon the worldly anchors of my life, and to submit my own desires and ambitions to a God that really cares. Unwilling to really seek God with my whole heart, and being frustrated when I can’t find Him. In essence, serving two masters instead of one.
I begin to see the weighty importance of pursuing purity, integrity and godliness in every aspect of my life.
That’s the way God seems to work. All or nothing. Put all of your hope in God, trust in him completely, seek him with your whole heart… He wants full obedience.
I’ve always felt this weight of finality and totality with the concept of obedience. I’m either obedient or I’m not. If I find myself being ‘half obedient’ then I’m really not being obedient.
I can’t mix oil and water, and light has no fellowship with darkness, and so to avoid the devastation of being lukewarm in my faith, I need to stop cherrypicking the ‘friendly’ parts of the bible while ignoring the rest… Living with one foot planted in Jesus, and the other firmly in the secular world.
The frightening thing about being lukewarm, is that it’s just so comfortable. Like the frog in the pot of water, slowly but surely on its way to being boiled.
This idea, of being fully committed to my faith, has been the theme of my prayer life over the past week or so. Bit by bit, praying that I may allow God to have more and more control over my life. Letting go of things I’ve held onto for years.
Gradually, I’m discovering the joy of being able to open the clenched and strained ‘hands of my heart’ towards God. Submitting everything to my Father, and asking that Jesus would indeed become the cornerstone that everything else rests on. Every desire will either be built on the foundation of Jesus, or it will fall away into nothingness.
The Last Supper – A Story of Faithfulness & Grace
Luke 22:1-30 (NIV)
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.
The Last Supper
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
“Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.[a] But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.
A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Last Supper – A Story of Faithfulness & Grace
With the smell of sweet bread still lingering in the air and the final dishes just cleared from the table, you rest your hands on your stomach, happy and a little sleepy, with a heart content in the joy of good company.
Growing up, family dinners at my grandparents’ house usually involved a conversation about the things we were thankful for. After this beautiful and carefully crafted meal, Grandpa would expertly steer the conversation towards the things we were thankful for. With Easter around the corner, I remember this tradition with a heart of gratitude.
Another name for communion is Holy Eucharist, which comes from the Greek word meaning ‘grateful’ or ‘thanksgiving’.
When thinking about the last supper, I find it so interesting that Jesus chose Peter and John (and us, in extension) who by nature are faulty, to prepare and distribute a reminder of the perfection found in Him. Yet, the Last Supper was anything but flawed.
From the man carrying the jar of water to the perfectly furnished guest room, the dinner was perfectly planned, just as Christ had told them. Growing up with a brother, I have a hard time with the concept of finding everything as expected. But this Supper wasn’t a coincidence. I think Jesus was laying the foundation with His disciples for His ever-faithful fulfillment of his promises.
Being the man of character that Jesus is – a man of faith, integrity and humility – Jesus knew we would struggle with the completeness of his forgiveness. And how could we not? In a world where we are told we have to do everything on our own, its easy to trick ourselves into believing that we are enough, that we, in some way, can actually do it without His sacrifice and the grace that comes with it.
Jesus spent his final hours setting up for us a tradition of thanksgiving, gratefulness and remembrance. So that when we break bread and pour wine, we remember how His body was broken and His blood was spilled, and above all, we are grateful, for the framework of faithfulness that leads our hearts to a table of thanksgiving where “grace abounds all the more” (Romans 5:20), just as He told us it would.
John 8:1-11 ~ New International Version (NIV)
but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Let’s look at the woman and Jesus in this story. Many scholars believe the Pharisees are the ones who set this trap for the woman, that they found a man who would seduce this woman who was rumoured to be an unfaithful wife. They deceived her with the full intention of subjecting her public humiliation at the Temple in Jerusalem, the center of society! They were using the Old Testament as a weapon.
But Jesus does not even engage them in conversation. He silences them by forcing them to confront their own hypocrisy. We do not know what He writes on the ground, but He turns to the woman. He is the Son of God and God the Son, perfectly obedient to God and without sin. He, unlike the Pharisees, has every right to stone the woman if He so chooses. That’s the truth.
He engages her and helps her see that she is safe, that her accusers have gone, and then He gives the final verdict: “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
These two statements beautifully explain the character of our Lord: absolute mercy, and absolute authority. He first sets her free from the punishment that her sin deserves, just as He forgives us. But then He commands she change her life, just as He commands our obedience once we have been saved.
He looks at her, just as He thinks of us in that moment, in all our embarrassing failures and hurtful things we’ve done to tear other people down. I believe He thinks, “My Father’s people will not even FEEL the punishment of their sin; that’s not Our way. I will accept all the punishment for their sin. Their (and her) certain violent death will become My violent death and I’ll do it because my Father will be overjoyed to see them born again by My Spirit and see their lives forever changed.” And He did.
Somehow, I don’t think the woman needed to think twice about obeying Jesus’s command to leave her life of sin. As you grow to understand what Jesus did, what He died to save you from and what He died to give you, there is one thing that will naturally flow out of your inner being: a flooding desire to do whatever He tells you, because you SEE that what He tells you can only bring LIFE.
Walking on Water: Life, Hope and Truth
Read Matthew 14: 22 – 33
Many people love to hear messages about how powerful God Is. Scripture is full of passages to reassure us. God is our rock, our fortress, a strong tower, and a deliverer.
In Matthew 14:25 we read that Jesus walked on the water of the Galilean Sea during a raging wind storm. Jesus had earlier sent his disciples out in a small fishing boat as he spent time on a mountainside in prayer. Jesus knew a storm was coming. Now, during this storm, he confidently walks on water towards his disciples who were a considerable distance from the shore. Jesus’ confidence walking on the water contrasted with the disciple’s terror and fear for their lives.
Once before, in a different boat with his disciples, a furious squall came up as Jesus napped peacefully in the stern of the boat. Afraid again, his disciples were convinced they were going to die. They woke up Jesus, Jesus immediately spoke to the storm,” Peace! Be Still!”
Jesus proves he is all powerful.
Information alone may not transform our human heart or character, but we can all experience God’s power in our lives if we take the first step… like Peter we must get our feet wet; take a step of faith and trust Jesus with our lives. Jesus is more that capable to care for our every need, our every storm. Jesus told his disciples and us as well, “Take heart; do not be afraid. I am with you”.
Let us pray:
Jesus, faith alone comes from you as we get to know you better. You are faithful. We pray today that we will take steps of faith toward you, trusting you fully with all that we are, and all that we have. We love you Jesus, it is in your name we pray. Amen.