Via Dolorosa – The Way of Suffering

Good Friday

Down the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem that day
The soldiers tried to clear the narrow street
But the crowd pressed in to see
A Man condemned to die on Calvary
He was bleeding
from a beating, there were stripes upon His back
And He wore a crown of thorns upon His head
And He bore with every step
The scorn of those who cried out for His death
Down the Via Dolorosa called the way of suffering
Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King,
But He chose to walk that road out of His love
For you and me.
Down the Via Dolorosa, all the way to Calvary.
Por la Via Dolorosa, triste dia en Jerusalem
Los saldados le abrian paso a Jesus
Mas la gente se acercaba
Para ver al que llevaba aquella cruz
Por la Via Dolorosa, que es la via Del dolor
Como oveja vino Cristo, Rey, Señor
Y fue El quien quiso ir por su amor
Por ti y Por mi
Por la Via Dolorosa al Calvario y a morir
The blood that would cleanse the souls of all men
Made its way to the heart of Jerusalem.
Down the Via Dolorosa called the way of suffering
Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King
But He chose to walk that road out of His love
For you and me
Down the Via Dolorosa, all the way to Calvary.
Songwriters: Miklos Rozsa
Via Dolorosa lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Storm Warning

We are forecast to have some pretty damaging winds and hail this afternoon/evening according to this graphic from KNOE8’s Facebook Page. Does that set you on edge a 12891051_1163521886991832_7769359563446250612_olittle bit or is it just me? Ever since the inception of The Weather Channel I think many people have become weather ‘experts’ in our own minds! Of course forecasters miss the mark often but they also hit the mark many times. The recent floods in our area have us all looking to the sky a bit because there’s so much damage to repair and so many still not in their homes. I don’t know what it was like in the old days when you did a weather forecast by looking up in the sky or reading the Old Farmer’s Almanac!

I admit to being a quick reactor to weather news. When I hear that there might be severe weather (like tonight) on a Wednesday (like tonight) I start thinking about our members traveling in that and my first thought is to cancel services so we do not endanger any of our people. I’m balanced out by a couple of elders who have a much greater resolve to meet no matter what (well almost – even they have their limits!). So we balance out pretty well.

Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians give us a hair-raising Storm Warning to keep in mind about the second coming of Jesus Christ!

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

…This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you… ~2 Thessalonians 1:7-10

There are also encouragements in the Storm Warnings:

Therefore encourage one another with these words. ~1 Thessalonians 4:18

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you…~1 Thessalonians 5:4

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…. ~1 Thessalonians 5:9-11

Just as severe storm warnings catch our attention and call us to action, Believers are operating in this world with an eye to the sky. The realization of that that storm warning means to us directs our steps and provokes us to stay true to the path of discipleship.

The storm warnings of Scripture ought to cause those who have yet to give their lives to Jesus to consider the risk of ignoring these ‘red flags’. Don’t be caught in the storm without protection!

At the ascencion of Jesus the disciples were looking up into the sky where Jesus had arisen and disappeared from view. Angels came and said to them:

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” ~Acts 1:11

We’re wise to pay attention to the weather on a daily basis… we live in this eco system that sometimes produces violent collisions of fronts that result in damaging conditions. If we think that is important, we should be all the more concerned with the storm warnings of Scripture. They have far more crucial consequences … and they offer much more hope for believers.

Thanks for reading, JD. Below are some links to three free Andrew Murray books for your Kindle as well as some that aren’t free but at a good price! If you haven’t read Andrew Murray, just do it. Prices change without notice.

Waiting on God by Andrew Murray  Free

The School of Obedience by Andrew Murray Free

The Spirit of Christ by Andrew Murray  Free

The Battle Plan For Prayer by Stephen Kendrick, Alex Kendrick   7.99

The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning   1.99

Be a People Person by John Maxwell   2.99

Holy Bible NRSV   1.99

It’s a God Thing, Volume 2: When Miracles Happen to Everyday People .99

Jesus: Your Best Friend

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Jesus Is Your Best Friend

by Danny Dodd

We all know the special blessings of close friendships. While we may have many friends, it is our best friend on whom we depend most. Proverbs 18:24 says, “There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” But even this kind of special friend who is like family cannot compare to the true best friend of all mankind – Jesus Christ. No other  has done more for you than he, and no other can offer you what he alone can. He is your best friend.

He Loves You Unconditionally. Practically everyone has experienced love with strings attached. The type that says “I’ll love you only if you love me or meet certain conditions.” A friend who loves in this manner won’t love long, but jesus will. He loves you regardless. Rich, poor, young, old, black, white, educated or uneducated, he loves you. He loves you even if you never love him. Who else will do this? What a friend we have in Jesus!

He Died For You Unselfishly. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). This is what Jesus did for you. Because of his everlasting gift, you can  have hope of salvation through the blood he shed. In this supreme sacrifice he certainly wasn’t thinking of himself, only you, just as best friends often do.

He Now Serves You Unchangeably. It was not over for Jesus on the cross. He now serves as your personal “High Priest” before God helping you to receive “mercy and find grace to help in your time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Don’t ever underestimate this help! You can always count on him.

He Will Reward You Unendingly. All friendships have special rewards, but none can come close to the rewards of being Jesus’ friend. What he offers can’t be found in any other friendship. He offers not physical temporary rewards, but the eternal gift of heaven to all his friends.

Are you his friend? We know he is yours. He says, “You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). His hand of friendship is outstretched and waiting. Will you accept it and embrace the blessings therein? Jesus is your best friend. Why not be his as well. You’ll never find another like him. No not one.

(This article from my files is from the December 2, 1990 bulletin of the Skyway Hills Church of Christ, Pearl, Mississippi. Danny now preaches for the Levy Church of Christ in North Little Rock, Arkansas. jd)

How Could God Love Me?

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Beneath the chest-beating bravado of this world I believe many people are asking a plaintive question. It is a question that enters into the depths of who we are when no one is looking. It addresses the world between our ears, not the life that others see. It is an existential question that addresses our path in life not only in how we view ourselves but how we relate to others. Yet, it is a simple question.

How could God really care about me?

It is true that our culture demands that everyone be ‘correct’ and that no matter your lifestyle, practices, habits or morals we are all OK. If you disagree, then it is up to you to figure out a way to keep your opinions to yourself so that I can continue on thinking that there’s nothing wrong with me. Maybe one of the greatest horrors of our time is to suggest that there is something wrong about someone. We may even feel a little insulted to be reading those words.

But in our quiet moments when life hasn’t worked out like we had hoped or when painful experiences bring tears to our cheeks we silently wonder what is broken in our life – and how can it be repaired? The ongoing problem with bullying is not new, but it still hurts deeply. When someone bullies us it tells us that we do not measure up and, worse, that we deserve to be mistreated. The devastating effects of this treatment are well known. Have you experienced the feelings of rejection from a divorce? Maybe you’ve lived through the disappointment of ongoing addiction. Perhaps even the stabbing pangs of grief when we have lost someone we love. The unexpected twists of life cause us to reflect on our own journey through life and ponder the reality that our lives aren’t what we thought they might be by now.

It seems like God really doesn’t care about me.

I wonder if Matthew felt something like that. He certainly knew what it felt like to be looked down upon by others. His own people rejected him and thought of him as a traitor. The people he worked for didn’t care for him at all – he could be replaced if he caused any trouble. He regularly interacted with the people of his city but seldom saw a smile. In fact, as a tax collector he probably experienced his fair share of curses and glaring hatred.  Day by day he saw them scowl at him and treat him like a thief. I wonder what he felt like as the darkness of the evening descended around him once he returned home. Stuck in a career he hated but not trained to do anything else. Like someone working at a cell-service provider call center he would hear complaints and hateful speech all day long. And when the sun comes up the next day he’s in for more. How could Matthew believe that God cared about him?

And then one day a man spoke to Matthew without hatred or anger. Even more, he spoke to him with a clear and distinctive compassion. Not only was his voice a kind one in a sea of insults, he made an amazing request. “Follow me.” Given the misery of Matthew’s tax collection table, it didn’t take much convincing. Next thing you know they are back at Matthew’s house eating lunch and talking. Matthew decided to bring along some of his friends…. other misfits and unacceptable people. To use a Brennan Manning term, the Ragamuffins.

Can you imagine that conversation? When Jesus talked everyone knew that he was not just an average guy from town … there was something about him that they couldn’t quite determine. For one thing he was so completely comfortable with them. Can you see his smile? Do you think Matthew and his collection of misfits felt differently when he looked at them than they did when the Scribes looked at them? Totally different. The Scribes were smart, religious, powerful, authoritative … and also frowning, dismissive, rejecting Matthew and his riff-raff friends. The Scribes left them feeling that God didn’t really care about them. But when Jesus ate at Matthew’s house a new experience belonged to them.

It seems like God really does care about me after all.

Not that God was unaware of the messes gathered around that table. If anyone knew, Jesus knew. He knew what was in a man. In the presence of this room of sinners the Great Physician was at work bringing healing to the disease that plagued them all.

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” ~Mark 2:17

So how do I know that God could love me… love you … right now where we are in life? Because he didn’t come to find people who already had it together. He came to find the screw-ups and help them get their life back on track for now. He came to cure us of our sin sickness so we could be healed forever in eternity and live with Him forever.

Next time you get to thinking that God doesn’t really care about you, think back to that lunch at Matthew’s house. Jesus could have eaten at anyone’s house he wanted … but he chose to sit down with people just like me and you. To the bullied, beaten, embarrassed, insulted, disappointed, and left-behind, God sends his love in the form of a man named Jesus. He was a man of sorrows who knows just what you’re going through. He was beaten, abused, and killed … but rose again and now lives to give you life. You can trust Him. He knows.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. ~John 3:16, 17

How could God love me? I really can’t answer the question. But I can tell you with great assurance … He does. What happened to Matthew? About twenty years after Jesus resurrected from the dead, he wrote one of the biographies of Jesus  – the one that bears his name. It’s the first writing in your New Testament. From there legend tells us that he went to Ethiopia to share the faith and there he was martyred. He died for the man who called him up from that tax collectors table and gave him a new life … and eternal life.

He’s calling you from your life to a new hope.

Thanks for reading, JD.

Targets

11.06.14It’s not anything I can really identify in very specific terms, but I do believe there are times when individuals are targets of evil influence. It can come through events or emotions or other people.

“Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.” ~Luke 22:31

I don’t think you have to look for a demon under every rock to believe this. It is true that there are just bad things that happen. Sometimes as the result of poor decisions or unexpected consequences. But that’s not the kind of thing about which Jesus warned Simon Peter (and the other Apostles. ‘You’ is plural – he is referring to all of them, although his attention seems to be on Peter). Even with a warning, Peter still fell into a kind of sifting nearly cost him his faith.

But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. ~Luke 22:32

Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail. It very nearly did fail, but there was a layer of faith that Satan could not peel away. Jesus knew that this journey of Peter’s was about to take a detour, but it was not permanent. He had work to do on the other side of this experience.

All kinds of Christian people experience the influence of evil in their lives. It isn’t always evident at first. We can find ourselves scrambling for answers. Like afflicted Job, who wasn’t privy to the conversation between God and Satan. It is understandable when he weeps:

I was at ease, but He shattered me; He seized me by the scruff of the neck and smashed me to pieces. He set me up as His target; His archers surround me. ~Job 16:12-13

God had not targeted Job, nor his friends. But someone had. How can you know if you are facing the oppression of the enemy? Notice the various names for Satan in the Bible and you will see how he operates. Destroyer. Accuser. Liar. Tempter. Thief.

If you feel like a target for evil influence in some way, you are not without defense. The classic text on spiritual warfare is Ephesians 6:10-18. Truth. Righteousness. Readiness. Faith. Salvation. God’s Word. These are the items that will equip us to survive. We do not wait until we engage the enemy to equip ourselves. That is what we are to be doing now. How are you preparing for the inevitable spiritual sifting that is coming your way?

I believe Jesus is praying for us, too, that our faith would not fail. If you could hear Jesus praying for you right now, what do you think He would be praying about?

Since He has already won the victory, we await the Glorious Appearing of Christ with confidence and joy.

…We wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. ~Titus 2:13 

We may sometimes be a target of Satan and his work, but we are not helpless. We remain victorious no matter what comes our way – because we are saved by the Eternal King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Thanks for reading. JD

The Shadow of Glory

9.3.14

All summer long some friends and I have had a blog tour. We have been writing on The Glory of the Son. I appreciate each post and the effort put into sharing some thoughts about Jesus that would bless many. This is the end of the tour. As the organizer, I decided to give myself the last post. A full list is available HERE

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No believer would dispute the Glory of the Son of God! Jesus Christ existed in the glory of heaven but turned it loose to come to earth and live as a man. His glory was no less evident as he healed, loved, taught, touched, and lived a sinless life. The purity and clarity of his life is contrasted sharply by the brutal beatings and crucifixion that brought about his death. Not just any death, but a death in our place, for us. If that were the end of the story it would be a good story, but not a great one. It is the resurrection that declares powerfully the truth that Jesus is the Messiah who came to save the world from its sins.

We’ve heard the gospel message so often in our lives that it sometimes loses the edge.  Think for a few minutes about the bewildered disciples after the burial of Jesus. Shell-shocked from the unbelievable truth that Jesus died. It must have been so overwhelming that all of his talk of resurrection seems to have been lost on them.

The women who came to embalm the body of Jesus were the first on the scene on that resurrection morning. They did not come to witness a resurrection. They were just doing what they do for the bodies of dead loved ones.  The  message of angels and an empty tomb sent them running to Peter to tell him that something had happened.

Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went home, amazed at what had happened. ~Luke 24:12

Yes, Peter was amazed. So amazed that he…just…went home. Deflated from his repulsive denial of Jesus, the adventurous spirit seems to have been drawn from his faith.  I think that here, in the shadow of glory, we find ourselves at times.

*Believing, but not acting on our beliefs.

*Disappointed in our own sin, and wondering if it was too much to forgive this time.

*Observant of the evidence, but allowing doubt to reside in our thinking.

The story of Peter is not over by any means. When Jesus told him he was a ‘rock’, he was certainly going to become such. But for now he will have to spend some time in the shadow of glory. The blinding brilliance of the glory of Jesus would come at some point, but for now there is just acknowledgment … and I imagine a smile. He believed. He was amazed. He went home.

If you’re spending time in the shadow of glory, just remember that in this time of wondering Jesus did not reject Peter. He did not express disappointment in him. He still saw Peter as a valuable and needed disciple. And so He sees this in you, even when you do not see it in yourself.  This is demonstrated because Jesus does come for Peter and point him in the right direction. In some way, Jesus is coming for you. Be watchful. Like some of the post-resurrection appearances you may not recognize Him. Just listen for His voice. He’s got a job for you.

In the shadow of glory do not despair. Jesus is not disappointed. He is about to reassign you in His kingdom work.

Thanks for reading, John.

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