Tag Archives: Reality

The Way, The Truth, The Life

Luke 24
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.  15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.  17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

 

Preparation has been completed
Jesus is Risen!

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is earthshakingly dramatic. It’s the most critical part of our life of faith.  That’s BIG!  Our hearts are filled all those BIG things today; Praise, Gratitude and Alleluia’s. This is the Day the Lord has made!  This is the day that ends weeks of participating in self-directed “remembering” to focus on celebrating Easter 2021.  Jesus described Himself as the way, the truth and the life. That was a bold declaration for a man who knew death was ahead of Him.  The resurrection was God’s bold declaration that Jesus’s description was truth. 

There is another quiet part of the resurrection of Jesus that we need to remember and celebrate too: Jesus’s post-resurrection encounters with His friends.  They were revelations of Himself speaking peace to calm their fears, reassurance to dispel their doubts, guidance to direct their futures and giving them His trust that would empower them to live IN their faith.  It’s the quiet part of the resurrection that continues beyond this Easter celebration.  The Way of crucifixion is Jesus quietly providing access to a new beginning as they ”walk along.”  The Truth of  “discussing” healed scars is testimony of resurrecting love that can quiet hurting hearts.  The Life “together” with Jesus is the quiet part of trust; He is alive IN every part of faith for every day of every week AND this Easter morning.  That’s BIG!  Alleluia!

Jesus, the Way, the Truth, the Life has the final word this Easter…
“What are you discussing “together” as you walk along?”

A Wake Up Call to Wonder – Luke 2:8-12

Luke 2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

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As I read this passage from Luke I couldn’t help but compare that first Christmas to today.  “Normal” Christmas is filled with a lot of beautiful imagery that fills my head.  Today as I reread the actual circumstances of that night, I’ve been reminded this is not a “normal” year and Advent this year is not just a preparation, it’s a wake-up call to “Wonder.”  Centuries of hindsight have eclipsed the realities of that night in the middle of nowhere when the Glory of the Lord lit up the sky for a very frightened group of shepherds.  Their story has become a window for us to see that while God chose to send them His promise  in a frightening blaze of holiness, they responded to the wonder of God in an ordinary way despite their fear and the harsh realities of their circumstances.  That is what has given them their special place in our history.  

The story of the birth of “a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” triggers beautiful romantic images for me of a newborn baby with a halo of light about His head.   I hear the romance of my own history in the angel’s words “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”  The circumstances of Advent in the Year of our Lord, 2020 have reminded me God chose to fulfill the dramatic promise from the angel in what appeared to be a far more ordinary way.   “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  That still matters.

There’s an old story of a European ruler who would sneak away and walk among his people incognito.  It drove his security people nuts but his response was “I cannot rule my people unless I know how they live.”   The reality of the ordinary birth of Jesus Christ is that God found a way to walk among His people “incognito.”  Christmas began with what appeared to be an ordinary baby…wrapped in ordinary swaddling clothes…from ordinary parents…in an ordinary stable…for ordinary people.

God has triumphed through the ordinary record of Luke’s story to remind me He will redeem Christmas again this year.  During these last few days of Advent, despite the harsh realities of darkness, pain and loss, the Wonder of God can still appear in the reality of the ordinary and encourage us to respond.  “And this shall be a sign unto you…”

• Ordinary Christmas lights twinkling everywhere as a visible reminder “the glory of the Lord shone round about them.”
• The ordinary music of Christmas audibly breaking through the noise of life with different angelic words that remind us to respond “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
• The ordinary seasonal 
“Merry Christmas” greeting taking on new meaning this year as a way for us to remind each other to “Fear not,” God is with us.
• Ah, and those bell-ringers with red kettles are surely angels of God that remind us that He will turn what appears to be an ordinary gift into into “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

The Third Chapter – Romans

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

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Paul is purposefully using a type of word play in much of this chapter that I didn’t include above.  His words are meant to shift the focus of familiar concepts and challenge thought processes about how we interact with God.  There were two things I read in preparing for this post that were helpful to me.  One was a line from The Message version of Romans 3; “Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.”  The second was from one of John Piper’s writings about this chapter where he referred to the Law as a track, not a ladder.  

Ladder-thinking regarding God, sin, obedience to the Law, faith and justification seems to be part of human nature.  I know my own tendency is to want a list to check items off so I can move on to the next rung.  Instead God has provided reality.  Life is filled with either/or’s, if/then’s and hide & seek’s. It’s like a track where the same laps must be repeated over and over in order to achieve the desired goal.  That is exactly why Paul’s challenge from Romans is so important today.   

• Sin hides us from God.
• The Law of self-preservation hides us from grace.
• Self-preservation hides us from obedience of the heart.
• Christ reveals the truth of the Law and obedience of the heart
• Obedience of the heart reveals faith
• Faith reveals grace
* Grace reveals justification
• Justification reveals God’s righteousness.

These realities are  a vital part of our relationship with the Sovereign God of the universe through Jesus Christ.  There is not a ladder, only a track.  Repeat laps as needed. 

The Third Chapter – John

John 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”…16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. ESV

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Nicodemus is our mirror for today.  He’s aware of Jesus.  He’s heard the stories.  He’s an inner-circle part of a well-established religious organization that desires to assure people of their position with God.  But Nicodemus realizes desire isn’t the same as reality.  He wants to make personal contact with Jesus because he sees Jesus is able to reveal the power of God in the lives of people that makes assurance more than just a possibility.  He’s curious about that.  Can you see yourself in Nicodemus’s story?  I can.

Curiosity and contact with Jesus are the essence of the assurance of being “born of the Spirit.”  God still uses them both to convert desire into possibility and then finally into reality…For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Warning

EPH 4:26 “In your anger do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. ESV

One easy response to conflict and anger is the the ostrich effect: a cognitive bias that causes people to avoid information that they perceive as potentially unpleasant. 

The ostrich effect may be comfortable but it has no power to make things right.  Anger is uncomfortable but it’s powerful and often feels right.  Don’t miss the reality this Scripture warns us of; “In your anger do not sin.”   Your personal faith is the power over those emotions of anger and conflict.  “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” and give “the devil a foothold.”  He plans to steal the power of your faith in the darkness.

Optional Ending

I Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. [ESV]

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I’ve Been Healed – by Shirle Bedient circa late 1980s
It’s lonely Lord, with people all around when no one knows what’s really deep inside.  Give me the courage not to hide my hollow life from you for by your wounds my lonely heart is healed.
I’ve been healed, I’ve been healed, praise the Lord
for by His wounds I have been healed.
The guilt I bear is heavy on my heart.  I want to hide my sin and shame from you.  Lord, I’m not worthy but forgive me, show me once again that by your wounds my sins have all been healed.
I’ve been healed, I’ve been healed, praise the Lord
for by His wounds I have been healed.
My spirit Lord is sometimes very low, for I forget just where my strength comes from.  Remind my heart to sing your praises all of my days, for by your wounds my spirit has been healed.
I’ve been healed, I’ve been healed, praise the Lord
for by His wounds I have been healed.

Earlier this Spring a little-known Gospel trio, The Followers, had their 40-ish reminiscence reunion and we recorded this song, from the “old” days.  I hope you ‘ll listen to the audio file all the way to the end because it’s the very end that inspired the object lesson of this post.  Many years have passed since I wrote this song but the lyrics still reflect truth; hiding, guilt and anxiety are realities of everyday life but “praise the Lord, for by His wounds” we can be healed.  Jesus has given us access to an optional ending.  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” [and this is key] to guarantee every day our life could be “returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul…that we might die to sin…”  That is the daily process the Lord has provided to teach us how to”live to righteousness.”  That’s the reality that makes healing and laughter the “optional” ending to a life of hiding, guilt and anxiety.

You Shall…

I Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” NASB

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We’ve seen the reality of many people who’ve chosen to overrule their natural anxiety during this coronavirus.  People in many places and many jobs prepared their minds for action, and with sober spirits were willing to do what they were called to do.  Some have openly done that in the name of Christ but others have come forward out of an intuitive obedience and goodness they’ve not yet assigned to Jesus.  But…they’ve revealed a greater truth that I don’t want any of us to miss. 

Some might call that the human desire of goodness.  I am only an observer but I see an impact on too many hearts to believe only human goodness is involved here.  Hearts have NOT been been called out of familiar patterns of life by the power of an enemy virus but by the intuitive memory of their Creator.  Our hearts in this exile are being reshaped by God, NOT coronavirus!

Our hearts have witnessed something about holiness that in our human ignorance we never expected to see.  The power of holiness isn’t always clearly identified but it’s never absent.  We’ve seen a deeper truth that still motivates the intuition of the human heart to respond.  “…Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 

Comfort

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  [NIV]

This is the middle of the week between Palm Sunday and Easter for us.  The memory of that first “Palm” Sunday crowd raising their Hosannas for the Messiah of their own imagination along with this quote from John Piper is my reminder for today.  “Many of Jesus’s followers [in AD33] thought Jesus came to rescue and reign now. They anticipated a physical and political freedom from the oppressive Roman rule. For them, the Christ was the key to their immediate, this-world issues.” [Your Sorrow will Turn to Joy]  

Re-read that quote from Piper and replace “Roman rule” with coronavirus. As believers in Christ we are confronted today with the same challenge of that long ago crowd – choosing imagination or reality.  We can’t imagine how Jesus will rescue us from the deadly coronavirus but we can find comfort in the reality of His own words “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Choosing to let Jesus’s Word be the reality of comfort for us is better than letting our imagination for this-world confront us in the midst of this coronavirus week between Palm Sunday and Easter [2020].

Heart-Breaking Headlines – Adultery and Murder

2 Samuel 11:1-5 It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.  Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold.  So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”  Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house.  And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.” [NKJV] 

“While Joab is busy in laying siege to Rabbah, Satan is [laying seige] to David, and far sooner prevailed.” [Trapp]

God’s plan for marriage
The condition,1 the promise2 and the blessing.3

Genesis 2:24-25 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother.1 and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.2  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.3
The reality of the relationship…Deuteronomy 17:17a  He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.
The evidence of accumulated sin…2Sa 3:2-5 Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon by Ahinoam the Jezreelitess;  his second, Chileab, by Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite; the third, Absalom the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur;  the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;  and the sixth, Ithream, by David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.

News flash! Deceit and cover up from a position of power are not new and the consequences of  sin are not normalized by repetition or by calling it by some gentler name.  How does a nation deal with the complete moral failure of its leader?  Consequences aren’t just a dismal surprise resulting from corrupt acts, they’re a given.  Heart-breaking consequences were the result for a whole family and a whole nation as a result of the accumulated sins of the very king who had captured God’s own heart.  Satan found a way to expose those accumulated sins into the tragic reality of consequences that included adultery, murder and death. 

Here’s the Good News from 2 Samuel this Sunday: God did provide for the king’s heart to remember the grace of repentance and restoration that could forgive accumulated sins even in the midst of heart-breaking circumstances.   That should sound familiar to our heart too.  God has provided for our hearts to remember the grace of repentance and restoration we have through the death of another child, His own Son.   Jesus,  is God’s provision for our hearts to find repentance and restoration in every circumstance. 

Complete Identity

John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. ESV

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“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.” Remember just a few verses ago when Jesus called you friend?  Why does Christ remind us now of the servant/master relationship?

We live in a world of two polar opposite masters; Jesus who is God and the princes of this world who aren’t. All of humanity will have to choose which of those two powerful masters to serve. There’s no inbetween. You can’t be a friend to both. You’ll either have to organize your life without God OR accept and act in accordance [abide] with Jesus’s example.

Take a moment and consider just what that example is.  Jesus has already declared himself to understand your past, believe in your future, and accept you just the way you are. He has called you friend. He wouldn’t have forgotten that when He said “A servant is not greater than his master.’  Remember “Jesus took upon him the form of a servant” [Philippians 2:7].  John 15:20 is not a reminder to us of His position as Master but of His complete identity with His own servanthood and His desire to prepare us for the reality of accepting that identity  as our own.