Jesus

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July 13

Monday, July 13th, 2020

How should I feel when I read these words? “Now when He had spoken these things, He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pas, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them while they watched and carried up into heaven. And a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ ”  (Scriptures from Luke 24 and Acts 1)

How should I feel? That means, except for a few extras, I have finished One Perfect Life, the complete story of Jesus by John MacArthur. I began on January 1 and finished July 10. I read the last week of Jesus twice-once during Lent and again as I continued to read the story of Jesus.  So…how do I feel?

  • Gratified. I read the life of Jesus from beginning (including some OT prophecies) to end.
  • Overwhelmed. The greatest man who ever lived left His legacy all over me. I see Him in all history. I see His influence in lives before me; near me; and in the future.
  • Humbled. This could be the strongest emotion. That such a great man could love me blows me away. He humbled Himself to become a man in order to give His life so I can become a son of God. What love is so great that it would do that? Only His.

There are more reactions bubbling within me than those three. Those are what I am feeling this morning-gratified, overwhelmed, and humbled.  “Father, may I never lose the wonder of Jesus and the power of His Word.”

July 10

Friday, July 10th, 2020

One of my favorite passages (I have a lot of them) in the Bible is found in John 21 where Jesus has His exchange with Peter at the Sea of Tiberias. I like it because I feel like Peter is me.

The story is familiar to most. Peter, James and John, Thomas, Nathaniel, and two other disciples (not named) were fishing when they saw Jesus on the shore. ‘Course Peter does the Peter thing and puts on his outer garment and plunges into the sea. But Peter was in for a huge surprise. He turned around and helped the others bring the catch in (it sounds like Peter may have done it himself). Then it was time.

Jesus twice asked Peter, “Do you love me?”

Peter twice answered, ” Yes I like you.”

Jesus then asked him if he even liked him.

Peter grieved said, “You know I do.”

The words used by Jesus and Peter are different. When Jesus used a word for love He used the word for total commitment (agape’). Peter’s word was for love but not necessarily total commitment (philos). Same with the second time.  The third time Jesus uses Peter’s word.

I am Peter. Jesus asks me for my total commitment and I, admittedly, hold back. Fortunately, Jesus is as patient with me as He was with Peter. I love Him for that!!

“Father, may my heart and desire be one of total commitment to you. May I not offer you ‘partial me’ but ‘complete me.’ May Your question to me end with ‘Bill, do you love me?’ “

July 9

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

I’d like to continue with the thought from yesterday’s devotion (July 8). What to do about the risen Christ?

A number of theories (“proofs”)  have been put forth concerning the empty tomb.

  • Jesus just swooned on the cross. He passed out from all the torture; was put in the tomb; revived in a cold, damp tomb; then had the strength to push the stone away.  I suspect somewhere in there He also had to over power the guards. Seriously? The more one thinks of that the more ridiculous it sounds.
  • The ladies went to the wrong tomb. Does that sound as silly to you as it does to me, especially given the fact that both Matthew and Mark tell us they were there when they laid Jesus in the tomb AND they even prepared the body with spices and oils. (Luke 23)

There are other theories-just as silly- but I think one of the most incredulous was actually given during that time: the disciples came and stole the body. Matthew 29 records that lie. But what is absolutely “insane” is how it went down:

  • The guards report the body is gone.
  • The guards were bribed by the religious leaders to tell the lie of the stolen body.
  • The guards accept the bribe and spread the lie.
  • The religious leaders promise protection (if Pilate should hear word of it) to the guards.

One big question: if the guards were asleep, how did they know the disciples stole the body? As Biff says to George McFly (Back to the Future 1), “Hello! Think McFly! Think!” Think people. Think! Does not that lousy excuse for the reason sound more more unbelievable as you think about it?  And here is another question: what about those soldiers? To live with that lie over your head and to know you betrayed your army?  To be black-balled in the eyes of your fellow soldiers? No thanks.

Seems to me it takes more “faith” to believe a lie than to believe the truth that Jesus rose from the dead.

“Father, the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead piles up, especially when one considers how ridiculous the theories sound.  I state again how I will stake all I have on the resurrected Christ.”

July 8

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

One of the truths of Scripture which is a non-negotiable is the physical resurrection of Christ from the dead. One of the heresies which has never seemed to go away is Jesus did not physically raise from the dead but his spirit did.

To believe the latter you must deny the former. This is not one of those either/or propositions. This truth came home to me as I read the accounts of that Sunday morning. The Sabbath was over and 3 ladies (Mary Magdalene; Mary, His mother; and Salome) made their way to the tomb. They discussed how they were going to move the stone but, of course, it was not an issue when they got there. “He is not here; He is risen.” James and John find an empty tomb. But the best exchange IMHO is His exchange with Mary Magdalene in John 20. Probably driven back to the tomb by her grief, she encountered Jesus. Thinking He was the gardener, Mary asked where they laid Him. You gotta wonder why she didn’t recognize Jesus. I mean, she had been a follower of His for much of His ministry.  She was one of the women who took care of His and the disciples physical needs (food and shelter).  But we aren’t told why she didn’t. Speculation: her tears clouded her eyes (that does happen you know? I’m married and have two daughters). 🙂  It could have been because the last time was ugly and He was beyond recognition. And maybe it was a supernatural thing (like the two on the road to Emmaus). That really isn’t important. But when she did recognize Him? WOW!! She hung onto Him. The word is clung to Him. The last thing she wanted to do is to let Him go again.  But keep in mind you don’t cling to ghosts or apparitions; figments of your imagination; or dreams. She clung to Jesus. But she had to let go.

I’d like to reference the holding on and letting go, but my point today is the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It is unquestionable. It cannot be seen as unimportant. Christianity literally rises and falls on its surety. No bodily resurrection = no faith. Bodily resurrection = solid rock.

“Father, Jesus rose. He is alive. Not a ghost or a figment of the imagination. Without doubt one of, if not THE most essential truths of all. To this truth I cling.”

July 7

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Have you ever noticed there are “difference makers” in our lives? That one event that forever “made” you. Or scarred you. That one person whose influence you will never forget. That one pastor or teacher or boss or acquaintance who stands out. Good or bad.

There is one thing (I’m not sure what other word to use) that makes the difference in life. It is the line of demarcation. It is the Mason-Dixon Line of the Christian faith. It’s the game-changer. They even wrote a song about it years (and years) ago: The Cross Made the Difference in Me.

I don’t know why but that phrase/song came to my mind as I was reading the Scripture this morning found in Luke 23:50-52 and John 19:38-42. Two men are mentioned there whose lives would now be forever marked by the cross: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

Yeah…that Nicodemus. The one who came to Jesus by night to talk. John 3 gives that whole conversation. And Joseph, a Pharisee, a quiet follower of Jesus. Well, not anymore. The cross brought them both out of hiding. Into plain sight. All would know NOW where their true allegiance lay.

The cross became their game-changer. It is ours as well. Paul said, “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ.” (Gal.6:14) He also wrote, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Cor.1:18). He says later in that same chapter that the cross was a stumblingblock. (v.23)

The cross was Paul’s line. It was Joseph’s. It was Nic’s. It is to be mine. It is to be yours.

“Father, may the cross be the defining moment for me. May it always stand as a line in the sand for me. You are my choice. The cross truly made a difference in me.”

July 6

Monday, July 6th, 2020

My reading from John MacArthur’s book One Perfect Life covered Jesus’ time on the cross (6 hours). Several events stand out to be:

  • His first words were “Father, forgive them…” Not a complaint or a cry of agony or of unfairness. Words of forgiveness.
  • The soldiers unwittingly fulfilled prophecy by gambling for His robe. Check out Psalm 22:18.
  • The chief priests didn’t like what Pilate wrote on the inscription he put on the cross.  He wrote “This is”; they wanted “He said He was.”  Answer: “What I have written I have written.”  Pilate-1/ Priests-0
  • Two robbers were crucified with Jesus. I’ve always wondered about the one.  Did he originally join in the antagonism? Did he see and hear Jesus and come to his senses? Did Jesus talk to him as He hung there? (Remember John 21:25). Did he know at one time and return? Answers I will will never know until I see the thief or Jesus.
  • The utter agony of Jesus the last 3 hours on the cross seen in His words: Forsaken. Thirsty. Finished (task completed). Giving up (committal to His Father).

All for me. Undeserved.  Not asked for. Unmerited. All for me. And you. Sinners. To the core. Unlovely, yet loved.

“Father, how can I say thanks enough? How can I find the words? They fail me. Accept my heartfelt gratitude for your undeserved love and mercy and grace.”

June 30

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

One of the members of “the Trinity” is misunderstood. Well…He does get a bad rap sometimes and, at times, is often forgotten. It is pretty obvious I’m not speaking about God the Father or God the Son. God the Holy Spirit is the One often looked at with shady eyes and raised brows. I think some of that is because of ignorance and some is because we treat Him with such mystery. We think He’s a ghost-like Casper- friendly, but oh so eerie.

I was ignorant of the Holy Spirit for many years. I knew He existed but was “afraid” of Him. I focused on Jesus and my first experience with raised hands brought a cold sweat to my body. I learned then and have continued learning about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

John 16:8-11, part of the Scripture I read this morning, offers some help but, if you are like me, there may have been some confusion as to what those verses meant. As a result the Holy Spirit’s purpose stayed cloudy. I do know this: the Holy Spirit’s purpose was never to draw attention to Himself. His purpose was and is to always glorify Jesus. ALWAYS.  That’s why to draw attention to the Spirit in song or to the manifestations of the Spirit is wrong. John 16 tells us He was to do three things: convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

  • Convict of sin- the specific sin of not believing in Jesus as Messiah-the only sin not forgivable, that damns people to hell.
  • Convict of righteousness- this might be better understood as self-righteousness (hypocrisy). He exposes the blackness of our own heart.
  • Convict of judgement- the context is that of the world under Satan’s control. The world cannot judge itself because it is blind, sinful and evil. (Current events show that).

The Holy Spirit is not really a ghost- an apparition. He has a specific purpose.  And He accomplishes it all by always drawing attention to Christ and the cross.

“Father, help me to understand more. Help me to see the Holy Spirit’s influence in my life and allow Him to do His work in me.”

Note: I’m indebted to Pastor John MacArthur for his “help” this morning.

June 26

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Sometimes I will make the statement to someone- “That’s not a hill I want to die on.” It could be about anything really, but it is especially true when speaking of Bible teaching.  I recently was reading a book by Gavin Ortlund called Finding the Right Hill to Die On. Long story short: it divides into 3 tiers the doctrines we find important. #1 is the essential where there can be no compromise. You must believe them. #2 are those which are important but allow for some differences (mode of baptism for example). #3 are those which really are of no consequence to our salvation (like your view of the 2nd Coming).

A #1 tier would be what I read today in John 14. Verse 6 says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the Father but by me.” This statement cannot be sloughed off as non-incidental.  Non-essential. Look at that verse again. I am THE way; not A way. I am THE truth; not A truth; I am THE life; not A life. There is no mixing those up.

Our culture would have us believe there are many ways to God; there are many truths to believe; and life can be found in temporal things. W.R.O.N.G!!! Jesus is the only way to God because He is the truth of God (Jn.1:14) and the life of God (Jn.1:4). This verse shows the exclusiveness of Jesus. Let me repeat that: this verse shows the exclusiveness of Jesus. He is not one of many; He is the only One. And even though it may sound narrow, get this wrong and you get it wrong. All cults (JW, Mormons, Bethel included) all mess up here. He is fully God and fully man. He was God in the flesh from birth to death. There is no one like Him. No question. No hesitation. No equivocation. No fudging. No part way.

CHOOSE!

“Father, I choose Jesus. I choose to worship Him as the one and only way, truth and life. That is a hill I will die on.”

June 25

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him. He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He was in charge of the purse strings and John tells us he was dishonest. He often questioned what Jesus did-not out of concern or awe-but out of selfishness. Somewhere along the line he got angry/frustrated/humiliated/greedier…who knows? The Scripture tells us he made a deal with the devil religious leaders to betray Jesus.  30 pieces of silver. That’s all. In the Upper Room Jesus exposed his duplicity although the others didn’t get it. Go out…deed done…betrayal kiss…reality hits…life ended by his own hand.

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him.  He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He left all to follow at the drop of a net. Brash. Bold. Mercurial. Speak first; think next. He often openly challenged Jesus. Luke 22 and John 13 record a prediction: denial was in his future. Supper observed…denial happens (3 times)…reality hits…remorse and repentance…restoration.

What is it like to be me? I would never do either of those! I mean, how could they? Surely not me. They were with Him every day for 3 years. Watching Him love, heal, speak, confront, forgive, show compassion, play no favorites, raise the dead. They did. Judas betrayed; Peter denied. So do I…more often than I care to admit. Which will I choose? The way of Judas or the way of Peter? Betrayal and death or denial and forgiveness?

“Father, may my heart always be sensitive to the way of Peter. May I always pursue a right relationship with You.”

June 24

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

A towel. That’s what he used to give the students. I knew of a college president who, when presenting their diploma, also gave each graduate a towel. The ensemble would have been complete if could have given them a basin…but I guess that would have seemed a little impractical. 🙂

Why? Well, all you have to do is read John 13 and the answer jumps out at you. The setting is clear. Jesus and His disciples are in the Upper Room preparing to commemorate the Passover with a meal. But He does this really weird thing. He removes his outer robe, dons a towel around his waist, and proceeds to wash His disciples’ feet. Of all the way out, surprising things Jesus could have done, this is one of them.  And totally unexpected.  Some church groups get this wrong. Not that washing feet in wrong. But to make it a ritual part of worship was not Jesus’ intention. He even says so in verse 7: “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterwards you will.”  “Of course we do Jesus. You’re washing our feet.” Key to remember: “You do not understand now, but afterwards you will.”

They saw foot-washing; Jesus showed humility. They saw a very common act; Jesus showed servanthood. That college president had it right. Graduation was a high point; they must reach a low point. We are saved to serve. Not thinking of yourself less, but thinking less of yourself. Peter missed the point…then. He got the point…later. Jesus’ words in verse 7 fulfilled.

Being a servant is a calling-a high calling. But it is not a high position where we can exalt ourselves.  It is a high that lowers itself. It’s a high that takes a towel, wraps it around your waist, and serves. Being a servant is a place of high standing.

“Father, let me be one of Your servants.  Help me not to consider myself above anyone else. Help me to don my towel and serve.”