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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What is Jesus Doing While You’re Hurting?

 

Are you hurting? It is one of those questions we think about a lot, but have a hard time coming to a solid answer. I don’t know what your hurt is today. Did someone that you loved deeply pass from this life? Has your health taken a turn for the worse? Is depression hanging over your head like a dark cloud that won’t go away? Maybe you are sinking financially or maybe you have everything you’ve ever wanted and it hasn’t fulfilled the longings of your heart. Is your marriage falling apart? Are your children headed down dark paths?

Do you ever want to scream out …

JESUS, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

I think most of us have. It’s not that we want to be disrespectful but it looks like Jesus has forgotten about us and we are facing life’s biggest hurts on our own.

In John’s Gospel, chapter 11 is a story of two sisters who had a brother that became deathly ill. They weren’t just any sisters, they were the friends of the Miracle Working Messiah. Yes, the same one that raised up the dead son of the widow of Nain.  So they sent for their friend and were certain that he would come. He did come. But it was too late.  They met him with the stinging accusation …

If you had been here, my brother would not have died.

I’ve felt that way and maybe you have too. If Jesus only cared enough to show up on time, the what misery could have been prevented! As you probably recall, Jesus raised Lazarus up from the dead. A beautiful story of His power and identity. But what can we learn from this chapter about what Jesus is doing when we hurt? What is Jesus doing about your broken heart right now?

WAITING.  It is hard to accept but sometimes Jesus is waiting.  In John 11 it is not that he is busy, but he waits…intentionally. We would like Jesus to heal our hurts immediately. But so often He waits. His concept of time is so different from ours. His purposes are beyond us … and sometimes confusing to us. We may never know why Jesus waits.

And so we wait for Jesus, as we perceive that He delays his help.  You’re not alone, you know, in your season of waiting. Imagine Noah waiting after the rain stops. Sending out ravens and doves … waiting for some sign that the eight aboard the ark were not going to be there until they died. In his sort epistle Jude reminds us …

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,  keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt… ~Jude 20-22

And John tells us that the martyred saints also ask about the timing of God.

They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer… ~Revelation 6:10-11

Maybe Jesus is waiting to relieve you of your hurt. In the waiting we also see Jesus …

EMPATHIZING. Empathy is the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings (LINK). When Jesus does arrive to see the sisters who are grieving the loss of their brother, he patiently hears their pain. They rightly complain that his delay cost Lazarus his life. They are hurt. They wonder why he would allow something like that to happen to them – they are his close friends. If anyone deserved to be spared this pain, they did. And Jesus listens, consoles, and feels their pain. First Martha confronts Jesus, but Mary stays behind. Jesus asks to see her, and it is not until then that she comes to talk to him.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ~John 11:33

Twice in this passage John tells us that Jesus was deeply moved. Do not think that He is any less moved by your pain. He loves you just as much as he loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He knows the depth of your sorrow and He joins you in your tears. Those nearest to the tomb of Lazarus noted, “See how he loved him!” He loves you no less and when you hurt he is waiting and empathizing.

PRAYING. Jesus’ prayer at the tomb of Lazarus is a prayer of thanksgiving that God is listening. It is also a prayer of assurance … it is for those who are listening around Him. He prays that those hearing would believe in Him. Do you think that when Lazarus came out of that grave people were moved to believe everything Jesus said? I am!

Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. ~Romans 8:34

I wonder what we would think if we could hear Jesus praying on our behalf.

He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. ~Hebrews 7:25

This tells me that Jesus is not unaware of our hurts and struggles … but they are on his mind enough that he speaks of them to the Father. I don’t know how all that works, but I am grateful that he isn’t just off somewhere inattentive to what I’m going through today. What is Jesus doing while we hurt? He is waiting, empathizing, and praying.

TRUSTING. Yes, Jesus is trusting. We haven’t talked about the trajectory of Jesus’ life at this point. By being such a bold resurrectionist, He has now performed the miracle everyone will talk about. Some of the Jews who were at that tomb placed their faith in Him. (Who was standing there watching a man dead for four days walk out of a tomb and still could not find it in their heart to believe Jesus? Wow!) This was reported to the Pharisees and according to verse 53 plans were hatched to kill this ultimate Grave Robber.  In this act ….

Jesus trusted His Father with his life. He will soon pray that if there is another way, to please remove this cup of suffering from his life. There wasn’t another way. Still, Jesus prayed, ‘Your will be done.’

And in your pain, questions, doubts, uncertainties, as you continue to trust you join Jesus on the path of unyielding devotion to God.

And we do this because Jesus … Waited, Empathized, Prayed, and Trusted. Yes, Jesus wept (John 11:35). In those tears are all the truths we need to know when we are hurting. He hurts with us. His divine love moves him to care for us in our deepest troubles.

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die … Do you believe this?” ~John 11:25-26

I’m not asking you to dismiss your tears or ignore your pain. I’m asking you to consider how Jesus is healing your heart over time. I am fully convinced that when you weep, He weeps. And then He works to redeem your tears and bring forth hope.

Thanks for reading

John

 

Open Eyes to Jesus

4.2.13Have you ever thought that other people can see Jesus so much more clearly then you can? I remember reading the early Max Lucado books and thinking to myself how stunning his reflections were. Phillip Yancey and Brennan Manning and so many others as they write just illuminate my thinking about Jesus. Betty Burton Choate wrote her book ‘Jesus Christ: The Eternal Sacrifice’ and opened my eyes even more. There’s no end to what we can know and learn about Jesus. I’m grateful for those who have served to open my eyes to him … and the way He opens my eyes to Himself.

In John 9 it is the people who can’t see Jesus that are surprising.  They’ve been exposed to Scripture their entire life. One would think that as Jesus stood before them they would have made all the connections and proclaimed, ‘We have found the Messiah!’ But that is not what happened. They miss the signs. The experts trained extensively in the Hebrew Scriptures could not see Messiah standing before them.

I really want to point my finger at them and accuse them harshly, but how many times have I missed the presence of Jesus in my own life. The Pharisees knew all the facts and figures of the coming Christ. They knew the prophecies. They knew the laws of God. They had all the answers about how far you could walk on the Sabbath and how many loopholes there were in the tithing laws. They skillfully reduced God’s word to just over 600 laws and then taught them.

Be careful about criticizing them too loudly. We have more Christian literature, blogposts, rock star preachers, mega churches, podcasts, radio programs, televised Christian events, Christian movies, and Christian marketing material than any time in human history. Jesus is all over the place but how often has He remained unseen in our own lives?

The only one in John 9 who can really see Jesus is a blind man who was healed. Perhaps because he was blinded to all of the distractions of the world around him he was able to clearly know Jesus as healer, prophet, and king. Paradoxically the blind man saw and the seeing men were blinded.

What are the blinders that keep us from really seeing Jesus in our life? I don’t mean knowing about him (facts and figures) or just being aware of the basic elements of the story. I mean I want to see Jesus and how He is moving in my own life, in your life, in the church, in the community, and in the world. I’m afraid the blinders are in place too often that have kept me from having a vision for who Jesus is in the real world around us.

Blinders…

*Tradition that is treated as truth

*A sense of right and wrong that is too dependent upon culture

*My own feelings about myself

*A past hurt that is keeping me from loving others deeply

*The events of my life that have clouded my vision

If I continue to wear these blinders, then my vision of Jesus is blurry and incomplete.  

I wonder if we are to look for the ways that Jesus is  working in life rather than staring at him, maybe we are to be staring at what he’s doing rather than rehearsing the factual story. I’m not saying we should seek to dumb down our attention to detail.  I am suggesting that this attention to detail can become the very blinder that we want to see around and we need to take a broader picture of what God is doing in our lives. We want to join Him in that work. We want to thank Him genuinely for more than just the fact that we heard about how to be baptized. There’s so much more to the Christian experience.

If Jesus could open up our eyes today what would we see? What would we really like to see and know about Jesus, but have never asked God to help us see?

The blind man of John 9 saw something that most of us do not see. It was not complicated. I was blind, and now I can see. That’s all that really matters to me today.  What would happen if you asked Jesus to open your eyes to Him today?

Jesus, please give us a vision for who you are right now in the world around us, our community, our church, our friends, our family, and in us. Amen.

Thanks for reading,

John

 

Contemplating Barabbas

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I’m contemplating Barabbas today.

As you likely remember, Pilate did not want to hand Jesus over to be crucified. He had a wife telling him to have nothing to do with Jesus, a Roman Government expecting him to keep peace, and some loud angry Jews who were about to start a riot. So, he turned to a tradition that might have been an out for him – the annual release of a prisoner. But when offered the choice of releasing Barabbas or Christ, the crowd cried out for Barabbas to be released.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”  ~Matthew 27:22

So Pilate released Barabbas, had Christ beaten, and then turned him over to the Jews to have him crucified. Barabbas – a known murderer and frequent criminal – walks away free. In fact, the focus of the moment is so upon Jesus and the Jews’ insatiable desire to kill him that Barabbas walks off into the mist of time. We have only speculation to imagine where he went from there.

I know it’s not a happy story, but from Barabbas’ viewpoint … was it surprise? Amazement? Wonder? Did he want to know more about Jesus or did he get out of town as quick as he could? The placement of this event in the final hours of Christ’s life does not give us time to be happy for Barabbas. But I’m sure he was kicking up his heels in new found freedom.

The story of Barabbas is bathed in the blood of Christ. That criminal did not deserve to be set free while Christ was on his death march. But as he walks away Jesus is beaten severely, perhaps almost to death.

I don’t deserve to be set free, either. I am Barabbas. Known to sin, sentenced to death, captive to all the wrong things. No matter what anyone else thinks (if they even think about it at all), my only freedom has come at the expense of someone else. Walking away from death row, I have many choices before me.

I choose to trust the One who died on my cross.

Those were my nails
That was my crown
That pierced Your hands and Your brow
Those were my thorns
Those were my scorns
Those were my tears that fell down
And just as You said it would be
You did it all for me
And after You counted the cost
You took my shame, my blame
On my cross

~FFH, On My Cross

What about you? What would you do with a second chance? I doubt I’m very far removed from Barabbas even today. My dependence on Jesus … being set free from my own brokenness … continues even today. The story of Barabbas doesn’t call us to perfection. It calls us to embrace the sacrifice made for us … the blood that bathed the cross washed away my sin. Unbound, I can’t wait to see Him again… to say thank you.

Thanks for reading,

John

Filled Up and Faithful (and some Kindle deals!)

coffee-cup - CopyI have so many great memories of my wife’s dad, he was quite a character. One story we like to tell – and remember quite often – is his insistence on having his coffee cup full all the way to the top. He didn’t want to miss a sip! That kind of enthusiasm for a good thing is how the Apostle Paul talks about Christ in the letter to the Colossians. I think there are too many Christians who are content with a sip, when Christ wants us to be filled up and faithful!

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…” Colossians 1:9b

That Christ was filled with God, and that we are filled with Christ is one of the rich teachings to ponder in Colossians. The merging of the divine and human is demonstrated in Christ, but also in our experience with Him. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” is one of those expressions that tells us that in indwelling Christ is not present in small sips, but fills us to overflowing. I know you may not feel that you are overflowing with the presence of Christ, but this is not about feelings. It is about the truth beyond our feelings.

To be filled up and faithful is described in several ways by Paul to the Colossians:

…You received Christ Jesus as Lord… Colossians 2:6

 

…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. Colossians 2:12

 

…God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins… Colossians 2:13

 

…Your life is now hidden with Christ in God… Colossians 3:3

 

…Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11b

Christians have received Christ, been buried with Him, raised with Him, made alive with Him, and hidden in Him! With Christ fully present in me …and you…

*Seek His will in every disagreement.

*Seek His perspective in every dilemma.

*Seek His words for every discouragement.

*Seek His forgiveness for every shortcoming.

*Seek His strength for every weak moment.

Remind yourself throughout the day that there is no shortage of the presence of Christ with you at any moment. That is His promise. You, because of Christ, have the strength to live a life filled up a faithful. I encourage you to take 20 minutes and read through Colossians once again.

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The Last Words of Jesus #2

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.  And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. ~ Revelation 22:18-19

As we look into the last recorded words of Jesus (see previous post), one thing that Jesus communicates is that HE CAN BE TRUSTED to give us the spiritual truths we need.

I believe that the Bible is God’s Word. I love to read Christian books, but no book can really provide for me the spiritual food for my soul that the Bible does. I do recognize, however, that the passage above primarily refers to the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation. It is a principle found in other Scriptures as well, though, and it contains a principle for how we view and read the Bible.

Adding to the word means replacing God’s wisdom with man’s theories and opinions. If you look at the table of contents in your copy of the Bible you will find that there is no book called 1st Opinions! Bible teachers and preachers who remain true to their purpose cannot demand of people what the Bible does not demand. We cannot teach as truth that which we cannot find in Scripture. The traditions of men may be good, and meaningful, but they do not find equal value / importance with the Scriptures. The promise of the passage is that the plagues (judgments) of God will be added to those who add to the Word.

On the other hand, we should not take away from the Word either. I do not know any Christians who would take God’s Word, read it, and just toss it into the fire like King Jehoiakim did in Jeremiah 36. But I do think most of us are adept at ignoring certain portions that call upon us to make some changes in our lives. When we take away from the Word, we lose the blessings of the tree of Life and the Holy City.

Christ gave us a sure Word, one that has survived the centuries. It may undergo some changes as translation moves it from one language to another, but there is no amending the content. We can trust Christ when we read His word. After all, that word will judge us on the last day.

There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. ~John 12:48

More on the last words of Jesus in the next post. Now here are some FREE books for your Kindle!

Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love by Jerry Bridges

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To Know God As Father by Lisa Cline

God’s Fisherman by Anne Gregson

So You Want to Teach an Adult Bible Class? by John W. Nichols

Uncovering the Pattern – God’s Way of Unity for Disciples Today by Keith Dorricott

Game On by Emmitt Smith

Thanks for reading!