Witness

 

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We are living during a time of confusion: Confusion about what is right and what is wrong. Confusion about what is true and what is false. Confusion about what is loving and what is hateful and what is neither. Even confusion about the meaning of words. It’s almost as if people have forgotten how to understand and how to reason. How is it possible? How did we get here?

Yet history points its finger and shows us other times of such – we might as well admit it – depravity. Times of dishonesty. Times of conspiracy. Times of complicity. Times of overwhelming wickedness. Times of sin.

Could it be that the crucifixion of Jesus took place during a time when people were willing  to claim a lie was the truth? A time when some people claimed the truth was a lie? A time when the truth was considered ‘hate speech’?  A time of ‘fake news’?

At this time of year, we are the witness.

We follow Jesus through His final hours. We witness how His words were twisted to accuse Him. We watch as people are confused, lose their ability to reason, and succumb to mob psychology. And we begin in the upper room.

Witness the Last Passover Meal

The last supper is a time of communion. Be willing to be uncomfortable; To examine your own heart truthfully and without excuse; To confess your sin: the big sins and the small sins, the sins you committed by doing the wrong thing and the sins you committed by doing nothing at all.

You are in the garden with Jesus. You see His struggle to sacrifice Himself for sin. And you realize the sin is yours.

Witness the Garden of Gethsemane.

After Jesus spent time with his closest disciples at the last supper, after Judas had lied about not betraying Jesus and Jesus had told the truth by affirming that he would, and after they had sung a hymn together, Jesus went to one of His favorite places, the Garden of Gethsemane. It was peaceful and held nature’s fragrance. Jesus spent a lot of time in such a place. He like to pray surrounded by nature.

Some of his friends had come with him, but they fell asleep. Jesus was left alone in the battle of His love of life and will to live –  with His obedience to God and his will to die so we could be saved.

And Judas, a friend who had spent the last 3 years with Jesus, led a contingent of soldiers into that peaceful garden in order to arrest him. Betrayal. It isn’t an ugly word, but it is an ugly action. And it set in motion the most horrible event in history – an event that saved us all.

Witness the trial.

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. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “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. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

They used the law to break the law.

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

What is truth? That is the question Pilate asked Jesus at his trial. It might have been a sincere question or it might have been a sarcastic comment borne of a time when culture’s understanding of ‘truth’ was fluid, perverted, or situational.

 Witness the mob.

 And now we see citizens who only a few days before had hailed Jesus as king and waved palm branches and shouted  ‘hosanna!’ – turn on him.

See how that happened? It was a result of a weak understanding of truth. It was the intelligentsia insisting on their way. It was a result of going along with what everyone else seemed to believe. And it was so very wrong.

They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Jesus was brutally beaten. A cross was put on his shoulders. He carried the instrument of his own death down the street – the way of suffering – while people watched. They watched while he trudged up the hill of Golgotha. There he was crucified.

Witness His final words.

“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.  When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left.  Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’  And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!’  But the other criminal rebuked him.  ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.’  Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me  when you come into your kingdom.’  Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’  From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

“Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’

Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’  When he had said this, he breathed his last.”

We are the witnesses. We know what happened. We must tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The verdict comes soon enough.

Youtube video, The Passion of the Christ: <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/OcLZYiePvtU?rel=0&amp;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>; Scripture references: John 18: 28-40; Luke 23:21; Luke 23: 32-34; Luke 23:39-43; John 19: 25-27; Luke 23: 44-45, Matt. 27:45-46; John 19:28; John 19:30; Luke 23:46

John 14

 

Today’s guest post is written by Calvin Miller. It was a funeral message written on the back of an advertisement about Wesley Tuttle. I don’t suppose the message needs to be relegated to funerals only, do you?

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John 14

Jesus said, “Be not troubled . . .” We sorrow, but not as others who have no hope. The loss we feel at the death of a loved one is our loss, not his. He has gone home to a better place.

Next Jesus urges us to believe and believe. “You believe in God,” He says, “believe also in me.” Jesus came as the Son of God, also as the Son of man. He meant this to be helpful to us in seeing the way to God. God can live through men – all who allow it. Your loved one’s faith was strong. If he was troubled during his last days it was only because of his inability to speak. His handicap was physical, not spiritual.

My Father’s house – we grow up in houses that are humble or grand, but the important part is that it is home. Home is big enough for all the family (even if crowded) and a haven when we need a refuge. Heaven is spacious, and it is a place where pain and sorrow are absent.

There are many rooms, each furnished for the individual. But these are not cells as in a prison, separated one from the other. There is one heaven with many mansions or rooms.

We are assured by the Lord, “If it were not so I would have told you.” He identifies as a reliable friend, giving to each encouragement or caution as needed.

“I go to prepare a place,” are words spoken by Christ Himself. I believe that He must allow parents also to have a part in making ready the rooms. Parents usually precede their children to this place.

Dr. Watters, veteran missionary now deceased, used to tell of his invitation to the Queen’s Tea. He likened it to the feast described in the Gospels. One does not make excuses to Her Majesty. This invitation takes precedent over all business and social matters. “I will receive you,” Jesus said, into “my own home”. He receives us, accepts us; and as we cross over the threshold, we move beyond the broken dreams of here.

Suffering and Sacrifice

It’s interesting the various things that we find constitute suffering. We might say suffering is going without something we’ve grown accustomed to in life. For instance, if the computer or refrigerator or furnace goes on the blink, we feel various degrees of deprivation and count it as suffering. We might be left out of a group or groups, sense a feeling of rejection, possibly very real, and describe the feelings from that experience as suffering. Or maybe we live with physical pain, chronic or acute. That can certainly be described as suffering, as is battling one’s way back from serious illness or injury.

Sacrifice, on the other hand, isn’t necessarily linked with suffering. Sacrifices, of finances or career choice or time, made by parents for their children are made gladly because of love. Sacrifice of time and money are made by parishioners of churches no matter the nation. Sacrifice of other activities, sleep, and even friends are made by those few who perfect a sport or art through much and repeated practice, study, and rehearsal. Parents, spouses, and children sacrifice their beloved soldier when that soldier is working or fighting or maybe even dying for their country. Sacrifice is for a greater good.

Suffering isn’t necessarily sacrifice, and someone who sacrifices doesn’t always need to suffer. But sometimes they are linked. It would be notable, wouldn’t it, if they were not only linked, but found in someone who could walk away from either or both, and didn’t. Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone who had everything he needed or wanted and who did everything well, suffered and sacrificed for someone who hated him in an effort to offer that horrible person a way to be saved from a horrible consequence?

If you heard about or read about someone whose appearance was nothing that attracted people you might have an opinion about him that included the word “ordinary” or even “homely”. If such a person was despised and forsaken . . . a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief . . . He was despised, and we did not esteem Him, you might think about what a sad life that person had. You would probably say he suffered.

But if, upon further examination, you found that he didn’t just carry his own grief, but carried ours, as well, you’d begin to wonder what kind of guy this was; One who suffers so much and still takes more upon himself in order to remove it from us.

And then, if you continued reading, you’d be stunned to find this same person was pierced through for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities. Who does that? Who takes a beating or punishment for someone else? Who dies for someone else – and not just dies, but dies an excruciating death? And who, despite the sorrow and suffering he experienced, still had an indescribable love for the very people who he not only died for, but who killed him? Who would not necessarily acknowledge him? Who would dismiss him as a myth?

One perfect man suffered and sacrificed his life. For Brussels. For Paris. For Lockerbie. For New York. For Jerusalem. For Jews. For Muslim terrorists. For Americans. For Genghis Khan and Napoleon Bonaparte. For Vladimir Putin and Hillary Clinton. For Saddam Hussein and Barack Hussein Obama. For Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. For the abortionist down the street and for the tiny baby that was aborted. For the guy at the bank. For your favorite barista. For the Kardashians, every one of them. For your grandma. For your minister. For the policeman who gave you a speeding ticket that one time and for the one who let you off with a warning. For the obnoxious kid from fourth grade you still can’t forget. For the person you pass every day on your way to work. For you. For me. For us.

Today is Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Go to church and admit your sins and tell him you’re sorry. And thank Him.

putfaithfirst.blogspot

Scripture quoted from Isaiah 53; Image: putfaithfirst.blogspot.jpg

Filled Up

This time of year is filled up! It’s filled with lovely music, with delightful treats and flickr, marc levin-the table is set...Happy Thanksgiving. CC lic 2.0delicious feasts, with decorations of every kind! It’s filled with events like the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center and Santa in the mall, with fabulous programs of amazing dancing and singing seen by thousands, and precious programs of children’s Christmas poems and crooked halos seen by loving churches.Through the commons.wikimedia.orgwindows of houses on the street where you live sparkling lights peek out of picture windows, while inside someone sips cocoa with marshmallows and sneaks another piece of fudge from the tin set aside for visitors.

It’s as though the world cleans house, puts on its Sunday best, and opens its doors to light and love. It is, after all, Christmas!

And though not everyone celebrates it, everyone benefits by its beauty and bounty and belief; belief that there is something better than what we see on TV, that the beauty of this earth goes beyond color and sound, that peace on earth, goodwill toward men can be more than a platitude. It is, you know. And it came on Christmas Day over 2,000 years ago.

The nation of Israel had waited thousands of years for the Messiah promised by thediploma-152024_640 pixabay (public domain CCO) prophets. Micah 5 gives us one of the prophecies, if you believe in that sort of thing. I do. The nation of Israel did, too; but prophecy often appears differently than those expecting it anticipate. For instance they probably didn’t anticipate a small town, unmarried girl or something as ordinary as shepherds doing their thing.

An angel visited a teen-aged girl named Mary. She was a good girl. She feared God and honored Him and trusted Him. And when the angel, Gabriel, appeared to her and told her that she had found favor in the sight of God; and that He had chosen her to be overshadowed by the Spirit of God; and that she would give birth to His Son, she was – well the Bible says she was ‘greatly troubled’.

If an angel not only suddenly appeared to you, but gave you such a wild message, you’d be greatly troubled, too. She was no doubt scared at the sight of Gabriel, but Mary’s faith in her Creator helped her to listen to his message. She didn’t close her eyes and pretend the angel was just her imagination. And she responded not with an ‘I don’t believe you’ or ‘can’t you find someone else’ or a flat out ‘no’.

She didn’t complain about the gossip that would certainly be spread about her. She didn’t reason with the angel that she could be stoned for being pregnant and not yet married. She didn’t talk about the many things that would certainly cause trouble in her life if this came to pass. Instead, she replied with one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture, something called The Magnificat. It’s found in Luke 1:46-55 and praises God for remembering the little folks and doing magnificent things with humble people.

Mary’s life wasn’t the only one initially affected. Now Joseph’s life was turned upside down, too. He had contracted to marry her, but learning of Mary’s pregnancy left him with few options as a God-fearing Jew. He could allow her to be stoned or he could get out of the contract and let the chips fall where they may. He prayed for God’s direction, then, like most men, he decided to fix it in the best way he knew. He decided he would get a quiet divorce in order to avoid her public humiliation.

However, an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him to go ahead with the marriage because Mary was telling the truth: her pregnancy was a result of the Holy Spirit. Joseph didn’t blame the dream on something he ate or drank. Instead, when Joseph woke up from this dream, he showed great courage and did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him. He took Mary home as his wife, but he had no physical intimacy with her until she gave birth to a son.

Even back in those days, government interfered in the lives of the common man. Caesar Augustus decreed that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. What a huge undertaking! However, it was this very thing that caused Joseph and Mary to have to travel from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, a town in Judea.

Bethlehem was bustling with citizens who had traveled there specifically to register for the census, and it resulted in packed inns and no room for a young couple who had had to travel more slowly due to a pregnancy. There was room in a cave or stable with the animals and that is where Mary and Joseph settled in for the night.

On this night there were shepherds watching flocks of sheep outside. Some shepherds might lock their sheep in a pen overnight, but not these shepherds. Some scholars think it’s possible they were watching over the lambs born to be sacrificed in the temple.

Did you know that a sacrificial lamb must be without any defect? What if something happened during its birth that would mar or injure it? For this reason, shepherds caught the lambs intended for sacrifice in something called swaddling clothes – to keep them pure and unspotted.

281 Bokeh Free Images on PixabayThe baby was born that night in the stable, and the biggest, brightest birth announcement ever came to the shepherds. First one angel appeared to them, and God’s glory shone around them. They were terrified and, again, if an angel suddenly appeared to you, you’d be terrified, too. But the angel told them to not be afraid. He then gave them a sign: they would find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Then a large company of angels also appeared and the heavens erupted with praise to God. That great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

And the shepherds hurried to Bethlehem and found everything just as they had been told by the angel. They found Mary. They found Joseph.

And they found something that held more meaning to them than it usually does to us. Cross_in_sunsetThey found a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes – the very thing they used to catch the new sacrificial lambs at birth. Can you say “foreshadowing”?

And they spread the word everywhere they went to anyone to would listen. And those people told their friends and neighbors. And so news of such an amazing event spread to whoever would listen.

Wise men from the East followed an unusual sight in the sky – a star that was unusual for its brightness and connection to prophecies, and timing. It took them awhile to travel, so that when the star came to its destination, Jesus wasn’t a newborn baby anymore. public-domain-image.com 2That star didn’t stop over a stable. It stopped over the home of Mary and Joseph and Jesus. The wise men knew Jesus was special. They knew he was a king. They worshipped him and they brought him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Yes, this time of year is filled with an abundance of things. It’s a beautiful, blessed, filled-up season, but it is all these things because of the one thing that happened in the fullness of time – the birth of the world’s Savior, Jesus.

As we watch the darkness fill with candlelight this Christmas Eve, let’s give praise to God. Let’s praise Him for His bountiful generosity during the season of Christmas and, most of all, give thanks for His unspeakably beautiful and precious gift – Jesus.

Images: flickr-marc-levin-the-table-is-set…Happy-Thanksgiving.-CC-lic-2.0.jpg ; commons.wikimedia.org_.png ; diploma-152024_640-pixabay-public-domain-CCO.png ; 281 Bokeh Free Images on Pixabay ; Cross_in_sunset.jpg; commons.widimedia.org-.png

TGIF

There was a man who was born under intriguing circumstances and for most of his years lived a common life with uncommon insight and passion. Then he began more widely sharing his teaching with anyone who would listen. Word spread, and people began traveling for miles just in order to hear what he had to say. Some of them did so simply so they could say they’d seen the current newsmaker. Some of them were more than curious, and followed him from place to place. For more than a few it got to be too much and they returned home to the comfortable and familiar. There were those, however, who took his words to heart. Those lives, the lives of those who took his words to heart, were changed whether they tramped up and down a few miles of the middle east with him; or lived out their lives in cities or towns or the countryside; or became international travelers.

And then there were those who heard him and hated him. They didn’t just hate his teaching. They hated him. They hated him enough to put him through a mockery of a trial and crucify him. They hated him enough to hunt down people who had followed him and continued to share about him even after he’d been killed, in part, as a result of mob hysteria and a powerful nation. Curious, isn’t it, how hate can travel not just miles but years?

But the truth remains: He died for you. For your redemption from the horrors of hell. For your free welcome to heaven. Your choice.

Cross_in_sunset

This Friday is Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus’ crucifixion. And Sunday? Maybe you can look that one up yourself.

Image: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. By AntanO (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons; http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACross_in_sunset.jpg

On This Dark Night

Frozen citizens of winter past;                                                                                               A nation’s pain in annexed fright;                                                                                      Each life in history’s long march                                                                                          All come to One on this dark night.

On this dark night. On this night we remember what Christ has done for us. We remember His bravery, His courage, His sacrifice. We remember our sin. We remember the cross. Jesus loved life. He showed it in many encounters and countless ways. No doubt He played games with his friends while he was growing up. He appreciated a great meal and a good night’s sleep.

He laughed with little children and held them on His lap.

He didn’t want people to suffer: to suffer with sickness or pain or demon possession or hypocrisy or hunger. Or death. He healed many of them.

He encouraged those around Him to have faith – even a little unwavering faith. He taught thousands of people about what God is like and what the kingdom of heaven is like and what honoring the heavenly Father looks like.

And because He loved life, He lived it in such a way that there was nothing hidden, no deceit, no political correctness, no schmoozing. He was just Himself. He always spoke the truth, even when it offended someone. He had rich friends and He had poor friends. And He had enemies who didn’t like Him.   Jesus loved life. He experienced a lot of rejection and a lot of sorrow. But He still lived. And loved.Pixabay cc cross-78000_640

And here we are. And it’s Good Friday. Jesus loved life. He didn’t want to die. But He did. For you.

 

 

Image: www.Pixabay.com -cc-cross-78000_640.jpg Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License