Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for…13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. NIV
Hebrews 11 is called the “By Faith” chapter. Twenty one times it uses that phrase to show the human side of the real life of notable “ancients” elsewhere in the Bible. The intersection of living by faith and the evidence of real life circumstance was just as mysterious for them as it is for me today as a new widow but they were commended for living “by faith.” Oswald Chambers said “Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him” so…
I will live by faith believing life is different, but still good
I will live by faith that what I can’t control does not mean I am helpless
I will live by faith that redeems without me knowing all the details
I will live by faith in yet undiscovered reserves of strength
I will “live” by faith that Jesus is nearest to me right now
2 Corinthians 5:10 & 17
10 for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
One of the mental images I believe the Holy Spirit gave me years ago was about finally meeting Christ face to face before that judgment seat. I’ve only shared it a few times and no one seems as wowed by it as I am. It was certainly meant for me. But I think it speaks of what the reality of anyone entering into eternal life with Christ will be like. As believers in Jesus we’re prepared but we’re not perfect. That moment of meeting is more than a pat on the head with a “well-done,” because life-saving reality requires absolute reality.
This is my vision of absolute reality, I am wrapped in Jesus’s arms, prepared for eternity…but first…I see my life for the first time through Christ’s eyes, like a movie. Frankly some of what I have to see makes me weep tears of sadness that I missed the mark so many times. But they are not tears of guilt or punishment, they are the final cleansing. They are the tears of purification. There in Christ’s arms, preparation turns into perfection; the purification of the heart, soul, mind and strength that knows the absolute reality of life and love that will last all of eternity.
In my own grief since Ken’s unexpected death, only last Friday morning that image comforts me in a new way. This time it was my husband wrapped in Jesus’s arms being loved and assured that his preparation in life is now the absolute reality of the purification of his heart, soul, mind and strength. He is loved by Jesus and perfect, forever. There’s a newer memory that comforts me too, something Ken repeated only last Thursday evening, Jesus Loves Me, This I know. I can easily imagine Ken singing that simple song he believed was the essence of his Faith, that next morning wrapped in Jesus’s arms, knowing he was right all along.
John 19:28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus’ words “It is finished” are an important reality of our life in Christ. I thought about their importance to the personal drama of my own “first” Easter with Jesus. It felt so big, so dramatic, so epic…and so complete…but it had just barely begun.
I wonder why it’s so easy to look at epic moments in our life of faith as finales when beginning right there on that cross, our hope lies in exactly the opposite being true. That’s the truth of Jesus words “It is finished.” Easter was not an epic finale but The Crescendo of a New Beginning.
18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”)
21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
One of the most important lessons the “heroes” of the Bible teach us is that Jesus loves, and puts His trust in, people who aren’t perfect. Those Biblical giants also show us the effects of human nature on our relationship with Jesus by example. My next sentence changed after an early morning review of a question asked last Sunday; “What would it take for you to believe in Jesus Christ as the King? a
I was going to write “I think it’s pretty safe to assume Peter’s recognition of his need resulted in growth and faith.” Instead it’s become the far more complex option “I think it’s pretty safe to assume Peter’s recognition of Jesus resulted in his need for growth and faith.”
The first option infers that Peter’s recent vows were all it took to overcome his human nature and result in growth and faith. The second version is God’s truth that Jesus’s choice for Peter was a relationship with Him that would overcome human nature and make Peter’s vows a reality of growth and faith. Salvation is the Lords, but human nature is a challenge that lasts a lifetime.
It only took a few verses between Peter’s vows and Jesus’s responses for Peter’s human nature to kick back in with his defensive response in verse 21; “Lord, what about him?” My mind is blown by how easily human nature can become our baseline of growth and faith. But my heart is relieved to remember by the Grace of God we recognize that what it would take to believe in Jesus Christ as the King – is a resurrection!
a Pastor David Camera, River Oaks Presbyterian, Lake Mary, FL
1Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way:
4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.
14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
These verses seem very familiar. Jesus is providing a meal of fish and bread, but the details are very different than the feeding of thousands. There is not a massive crowd involved in this scene. The servants then, are the receivers now. Now it’s a small group of tired and hungry men in a boat returning from a long night of fishing with only an empty net and a man on the shore cooking a breakfast of fish and bread.
Maybe it was the unfamiliar circumstances or just the distance between them “but the disciples did not realize it was Jesus.” These men had been “caught” and taught by Jesus but now there’s this “recognition” issue. It’s easy to understand the physical presence of Jesus on that beach was unexpected but were they already losing their sense of intimacy with Him too? I wonder about that. “This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.”
Most of these fishermen/disciples would have seen the Risen Jesus with their own eyes at least once before this moment. But it took the filling of that empty net to trigger the memory of “the disciple whom Jesus loved” to recognize “It is the Lord!” The most overlooked mystery of faith may well be that “None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord” because of what they remembered.
That seems like an object lesson for why we set aside these 40 days of Lent. We need to know and remember “WHO” Jesus is, not just that He IS, in order to have an intimate relationship with Him. Intimacy with Jesus is the byproduct of remembering what He’s already done so even in the most the unexpected circumstances of life we’re able to recognize His presence.
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit
Who came to mind when you read these three
words chosen for this post?
I’m willing to bet your answer was the same as mine. It’s Jesus…and that’s absolutely right! I pondered these verses and those three words and realized Comforter, Counselor and Rescuer are nouns that we all identify as interchangeable with Jesus Himself. What caught my attention was those same three words can also be used as verbs that describe an action if you just change the ending to “ing.”
I am confident every one of those frightened men would have answered my first question in the same way we did, it’s Jesus! They certainly recognized Jesus as Comforter, Counselor and Rescuer. What may seem like subtle shades of difference between a noun and a verb has helped me recognize knowing the identity of Jesus is vital but it’s incomplete without the personal experience of His purpose for our life.
- Jesus’s identity is Comforter, but His purpose is comforting so we may be comforted
- Jesus’s identity is Counselor, but His purpose is counseling so we may be taught
- Jesus’s identity is Rescuer, but His purpose is rescuing so we may be saved
The hope for those men as they hid behind “doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders” was summed up in one simple phrase; “Jesus came and stood among them…” Jesus came to verify his identity as Comforter, Counselor and Rescuer AND put His purpose for their lives into action by comforting frightened people with His presence, counseling them with His peace and rescuing them with His Spirit. Thanks be to God, Jesus has become our hope for completeness too.
John 20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
We know Lent is leading us, first to the Tomb, then to the Cross and finally to examine our heart. It seems like the empty tomb has come too soon in my readings. I’m still in preparation mode. “The stone” is the thing that has repeatedly caught my attention. In all four Gospel versions the story is about the empty and open tomb with specific mention of the stone and how it was moved.
My Cliff Notes:
– God chose “stone” to write His most important Words on
– Living stones
– Stone: a hard substance that comes from the ground, used for building of carving, used for a particular purpose.
It’s not too big a stretch of faith to associate these two verses and the mystery of that heavy “stone” having been moved. God’s first choice of material to write the 10 most important things He wanted His people to know was stone. Jesus is described as the Cornerstone,a and you are described as living stones. That’s in the Bible too. The wonder of the stone being moved is that once again God used a “Stone” to reveal exactly what He wanted His people to know. We know, thanks be to God, that it was His Breath of Life that moved Jesus from the tomb to His place in us. “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
a 1 Peter 2:4-7
John 19:14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
“The day of Preparation” has been like a flashing light pushing me to read…and ponder this one verse from John 19. Did you notice that capital “P”? I’ve come to the conclusion what little I understand about timing and calendars and the observance of Passover is related to that phrase. That makes it very important to me. Jesus has eaten the Passover meal with His friends. Friday was considered the day of preparation for the Sabbath which began at sundown. This particular Sabbath preparation day has occurred during Passover week. Preparation for Passover week always includes the complete removal of all leaven from the home and the diet for the entire week’s observance. It’s a separation of time with a meaningful purpose.
The removal of leaven is a remembrance of the Jew’s misfortune at being driven out of Israel, the intention of the evil against them and a sacrifice of time to interrupt an expected cycle. FYI: Leavened bread was created by the decay of wheat and water that created yeast-like bubbles of fermentation that could raise the dough and change the texture of the bread. There is a tipping point in that cycle of fermentation where the dough that has been slightly soured is still edible and must be used, or it will be ruined. Timing is everything. During Passover Week, the removal of leaven becomes that separation of time that gives evidence of the desire to remove what is past and look forward to a new beginning.
That has become my beacon of light from God. Little did Pilate or the Jewish priests and leaders realize they were participating in “the day of Preparation” God had already planned. The “Preparation” was Jesus. He interrupted that preparation at just the right time to give evidence of God’s desire to prevent the expected cycle of ruin and offer Himself as the “Bread of Life.”
John 18 NIV
28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” 30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected.
This is the story of a power struggle between legalism and truth. The thing that shocked me most in this passage was the phrase “to avoid ceremonial uncleanness.” The goal of the Jewish leaders was the execution of Jesus through manipulating the power systems in place, not justice or truth. The grim reality of their legalism is their shockingly clear response to Pilate’s question – “What charges are you bringing against this man?” – “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected.” The proof of their legalism was Pilate could achieve their goal to get rid of Jesus so they could avoid ceremonial uncleanness. It was their choice to justify hearts that had found a way to work around God’s truth; “Thou shall not kill.”
I admit it, I have rules! The whole purpose of rules is to regulate behavior and exert influence. Neither of those is necessarily bad…until…they replace the truth that life with Jesus is how we are justified, not rules. Have you even thought about “ceremonial uncleanness” in terms of your own behavior? I certainly hadn’t, but I know I’m guilty of having used rules to justify my motivations and behaviors. Legalism is believing rules or personal motivations can help you avoid ceremonial uncleanness. The truth of the Grace of God in Jesus is that the “the life I now lived in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”a
a Part of Galatians 2:20
John 18:2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he…” ESV
Today is the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday. The observance of Lent is considered a time of repentance observed through personal denial. It’s so easy to see in this passage how Judas’s betrayal has separated him from God. I ask you to consider two things to remember about observing Lent: 1) Betrayal is what separates US from God and 2) repentance requires acknowledging OUR betrayal.
Jesus has provided us a simple example of three little words with so much power they knocked his betrayers to the ground; “I am he.” Don’t miss the power of those three little words when recognizing your sins have been a part of that betrayal too. “I am He” acknowledges the reality that our identity with Jesus is what turns a simple act of personal denial into an act of repentance with the power to change us.