Purple Day

I knew that you are gracious, You are tender and kind. You are slow to get angry. You are full of love, You are a God who takes pity on people. You do not want to destroy them.

Jonah 4:2b (NIrV)

The words of Jonah after the plant has withered and died and God did not destroy the ancient city of Babylon.

Surprisingly enough, much of this verse can be found in Psalms 145:8 which is where Jonah probably got it from in the first place.

Recently, I committed this one to memory along with others, which if all goes well, will become posts as the summer progresses.

In case you are wondering about the title, Today and every Monday is Purple day. Purple is for Royalty and a day to celebrate attributes of our God. How he created all living things in just six days and on the seventh day rested.

How often do we forget to thank God for something. Our God is a God of Grace, tenderness, kindness, pity, slow to get angry.

 

The Spirit is Willing…

Over the past few months I have been wondering on what God is wanting me to do.

In two previous posts “An All Nighter to Remember (or not)” and “You’re Not Cut Out for this I talk about some of those thoughts that have been running through my mind and try to relate them to two different passages in Matthew.

I want to revisit one of them.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

—Matthew 26:36-46 (bold mine)

I want to focus this time on the words that Jesus says to Peter. “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

I have been without a job for about 9 months now. and the whole time I have been trying to figure out what God has for me. I feel like Peter. Willing to go to the end for Jesus, but too scared to see what that might entail.

Like I’ve said before this is how Satan wants us. Satan is the king of this world and will do anything he can to have his way. Our bodies are sinful and have no idea what it is like to live in Christ’s new bodies. Our bodies give us pain, strife, worry, baggage and everything in between. Satan does this to ,hopefully, keep us enslaved to the world and thus him.

What would happen if our bodies embraced what our spirits are trying to tell us? What if our bodies were as willing as our spirits to do the will of God?

Would there be less violence? less evil? Would Satan have a harder time trying to control us?

Would there be more compassion, more love for those who are different from us? Where would the love of God be taken and to what heights?

No one can know the answer to these questions. Satan still has the foothold here on Earth. Satan wants us to feel alone and like we are the only ones dealing with our situation.

Let me tell you something. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE! There is always someone going through something similar to what you are.

The body does not have to be weak. After Easter, Peter becomes one of the greatest leaders of the early church. Even his shadow had healing powers. His body became as strong as his spirit, which tells me that we can strengthen our bodies to do the will of the Father. Be used by Him and impact the world for the better.

Pray with me.

Our Father, help us for our spirits are willing, but our bodies are weak. Lead us as we strengthen our bodies to do your will. Guide us in the way of salvation. Create in us a new heart, free of the strife of this world willing to do your will in any situation that may come in our way. Amen.

revival

Revival – noun

A bringing back to a state of prior existence.

A large meeting of people in a church-like setting.

Related to this word are people, the Wesley Brothers, Billy Graham, and the Gaithers. Things such as tents, alter calls, mass conversions, and hymns, Time periods of the First and Second Great Awakenings here in America. These are just a few of the many stereotypical things that come to mind when I hear the word Revival.

However, Revival is not something to be taken lightly, like a feather in the wind. It is much deeper. It is one of the many tools that God uses to get our attention and bring about change. Like a brick falling from a three-story rooftop and hitting someone in the forehead, revival is going to leave a mark. That mark can come in many different forms.

One mark of revival is that of turning back to God. Prime example: Nehemiah

Nehemiah 1:1-4

In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was at the fortress of Susa. Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem.

They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.

God used this news to bring about revival in Nehemiah’s life. A great burden was placed on his heart for the people of Jerusalem. So much so that even the king noticed it as Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer.

Nehemiah 2:1-6

Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.”

Then I was terrified, but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”

With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”

The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request.

And the king did more than just agree, but sent guards to protect and letters to the governor’s for safe passage. Nehemiah was not expecting the king to give anything, but to his surprise the king was willing to give more than Nehemiah thought possible. Nehemiah went to Jerusalem, rebuilt the wall in record time, and when it was done called a meeting of all the people of Jerusalem and had Ezra read God’s word to them from dawn until noon which brought the Israelites back on track with God.

Which brings us to our next mark of revival, that of God’s visible action and intervention in our lives. Turn to Habakkuk 3:2

Habakkuk 3:2

I have heard all about you, Lord.
I am filled with awe by your amazing works.
In this time of our deep need,
help us again as you did in years gone by.
And in your anger,
remember your mercy.

Habakkuk is praying for God to intervene for his people. Habakkuk has seen what God is about to do and is filled with wonder. He is praying that God would again come and rescue his people. Revival fills us with this wonder, restores us to a place where we are close to Him and we are more aware of what God is doing in our lives.

This leads to the third mark of revival, a hunger and a thirst for God, even when we don’t see how God is working in us.

Turning back to Jeremiah 29:11, a passage that many of us can say by heart or at least recognize it, yet there is more to this passage.

Jeremiah 29:11-14

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

When we pray, when we thirst for action from God, He will listen. The thirst comes out of change revival brings about. We thirst to become closer to God, to read His word, for an action to be carried out.

God wants to work through each of us, build the up the walls again as in Nehemiah’s time. Heal our wounds, mend our relationships, free us from the chains that hold us back from running at a full sprint to Him.

God want to leave a mark of revival in you, to bring you to him, work in your life, fill you with a thirst that can only be quenched by Him who made you. Yet, he can’t if you don’t first let Him in. He can’t bring revival in your life unless you believe that He can do it, that he died on the cross in your place.

I challenge you to allow God to bring about revival in your life. Allow Him to draw you closer to Him, work in your life, quenching the thirst with water from a river that will never run dry.

Let us pray

Lord, we surrender. Loose these chains that we carry so that we can fully come to you. Be our vision for in the way of heavenly things we are blind. Allow us to be a beacon to someone this week and show us the beacon we are to follow. Bring about a revival in us that we may be forever changed and that we may draw closer to you. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

The Crazy Ones

Band Camp. Already your thoughts turn to marching, summer heat, maybe the movie Drum line, or experiences of your own, but not this camp. You see my band director had this crazy idea that bordered “The Music Man’s” sense of crazy and the adventure of the “Wizard of Oz.” The idea was to bring in her elementary bands, one of which had never played a note in their lives, for a band day camp. The best part, the teachers would be her High School band students. When all was said and done it turned out to be some of the best summer memories I can remember. All of her students thought she was a little crazy, but that summer I learned a valuable lesson. To work with kids, you have to be a little crazy. Today that thought has expanded to include all of ministry.

Paul wrote the following to the church in Corinth:

Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too.  Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.         2 Corinthians 5:11-15 NLT

Now in what the Bible records as the second letter and even the first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul is telling this church some pretty crazy things for that time. In the first letter Paul tells them to cast a man out of their company for doing something that is just plain wrong, even today. In the second letter, Paul tells them to forgive this person. That is only one of the examples that is going on here.

Paul says that by being crazy (other translations put is as “beside ourselves”,”out of our minds”) it is to bring glory to God and if they are in their right minds, it is for our benefit. Their craziness is so that we have a reason to evaluate our hearts and actions when it comes to our ministry and our daily activities. Do we boast about what we or our churches are doing or do we simply tell others about what is going on and invite them to join us? Do we do things with a prideful heart instead of a servant’s heart?

Let God bring you to his “band camp.” Let those who have gone before and have more experience in the Christian way of life and may seem to be “crazy,” train you in the way you should go. For Christ’s love controls us all. Some of us may be like the fifth graders just learning to play, others the high school students teaching those who are new to the instrument. Even as a band, the members are always evaluating how they sound to make the piece better and better. Hardly ever does someone get it on the first try, but after much practice and many times of playing the piece, can a group finally master a song. Like wise we are all instruments in God’s orchestra, each has a part and each must evaluate where our hearts lie daily so that we are in our right minds. Telling other about our ministries without boasting not what we are doing but what God is doing in us.

How will you boast about what God is doing in your life today?

A Reprioritizing Judge

For anyone who missed it. This is the sermon that I preached earlier today.

Jay Leno in his autobiography tells a story about how in his early years he went on a late night show to do a routine. He was asked what the queue would be for when he was done. He did so and walked out on stage. The crowd greeted him with a standing ovation to which he replied “thank you, thank you very much.” To Leno’s confusion, the band started playing and the show went to commercial, forcing him offstage. Leno had accidentally said the cue he had given for when he would be done. As shocking as this true story might be, it would have been better if it actually happened to Leno. It was discovered that Leno had paid someone to use their experience in his autobiography; leaving many wondering where his priorities lie in the book. Telling about his actual experiences, or telling a good story.

Every day we are faced with decisions that we must prioritize in order of relevance to us at the time. Breakfast, school assignments, what we will get done during the day. All of these must be sorted and examined and at times communicated to others, I can’t tell you how many times I wake up in the morning to find Mom has left a list of things she wants me to do. Things on her priority list that she can’t get done because she is at work that she wants me to consider on my priority list for the day. How we sort, examine and communicate these priorities says a lot about who we are and what we believe to others. Even our actions can play a factor in communicating our priorities to others.

If you would turn to John 18 starting in verse 28, I want to look at how these conversations shape the priorities of those involved.

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. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

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

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

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

36 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.”

37 “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.”

38 “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. 39 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’?”

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

19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.

This chapter falls in a series of events that is known as Holy Week, celebrated each year the week before Easter. For Jesus and his disciples it was a roller-coaster of emotions and events. It starts with the Triumphant Entry, Jesus riding on the back of donkey into the city of Jerusalem. Crowds cheering and waving palm branches. The next few days Jesus is teaching in the Temple, meanwhile the leading priests are seeking an opportunity to kill Jesus. They find this opportunity in Judas Iscariot. Now John gives a slightly different timeline of events than the other gospels. John give an account of Jesus and his disciples celebrating the Passover meal a day early in secret, giving way to Jesus knowing that he will be dead by the time that the Passover meal is given the following evening. At this meal Jesus gives the new covenant with the bread and wine symbolizing his body and blood. After this, Jesus takes his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. Where he tells them to wait there while he goes off to pray, he returns to them sleeping, he wake them up and goes back to prayer only to return and find them asleep again. By this time Judas is approaching to betray Jesus. He does so, Peter chops off someone’s ear, Jesus heals it, Jesus is arrested and taken not to the Temple for a trial before the Sanhedrin, but to Annas the father of the High Priest Caiaphas, who sends him to Caiaphas himself. Now John gives no account of either of these trials, but we know from Matthew that the leaders find false evidence and take Jesus to Pilate’s headquarters.

Now these leaders won’t enter Pilate’s headquarters due to an unstated defilement for doing so. This is forcing Pilate to work on two different playing fields. Pilate had to come out to them.

“What is your charge against this man?”

“We wouldn’t have handed him over to you if he weren’t a criminal!” they retorted.

Notice there is no real accusation here. This is no more than a “We don’t like him please get rid of him for us”

 “Then take him away and judge him by your own law,” Pilate told them.

“Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone,”

This tells Pilate exactly what the Jewish leaders want.

Pilate goes in for his first encounter with Jesus.  “Are you the king of the Jews?”  This question is the same in all the gospels. However, at this point, in Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus goes silent, but here Jesus asks a question.

 “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”

Jesus is testing the waters. There are two scenarios that could have happen the first is that the leaders could have gotten to Pilate beforehand.  The second is that Pilate could truly be asking for the first time.

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

Basically, I am not them and they really don’t like you. What have you done?

 “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

“So you are a king?”

“You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked.

With that Pilate cuts off the conversation and heads back out to the leaders

“I find nothing wrong with him. But you have a custom of asking me to release one prisoner each year at Passover. If you want I can release him back to you.”

“No! Not this man. We want Barabbas!”

Now just a side note here. Barabbas depending on the translation that you use is says that Barabbas was a robber, a revolutionary, criminal, a terrorist. The Romans had him locked up for good reason. Yet the people had decided that since Jesus would not free them politically from Rome then surely Barabbas would. However we never find out from John if Pilate ever released Barabbas.

Pilate heads back inside. And gives orders to Have Jesus Flogged

Now I’m sure we have all been hit by a stick, belt, or wet towel, but this was no belt. Five pieces of leather tied together embedded with lead shards that ripped into the person. Now the max, according to Jewish law, that could be used on Jesus was 40. However, for Roman citizens there was no limit to the amount of strikes one could endure. Yet not only did the soldiers flog him but mocked him by putting a crown of thorns on his head and a purple robe and lead him back to Pilate who is back outside.

“I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” “Look, here is the man!”

“Crucify him! Crucify him!”

“Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find him not guilty.”

“By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”

And out it comes, the real reason that the Jewish leaders are here and the first accusation. A religious one. With this Pilate heads back inside taking Jesus with him.

 “Where are you from?”

Here Jesus becomes silent as he does in the other gospels. He doesn’t need to answer because he answered the question earlier.

“Why don’t you talk to me? Don’t you realize that I have the authority to release you or crucify you?”

Wrong move Pilate, What you don’t realize is that only a few chapters earlier in chapter 10 that Jesus states that he has the authority over life and the authority to regain it. There’s potential for a battle of authority to erupt, but Jesus goes another route.

“You would have no authority over me at all unless it was given to you from above.”

Now here is one of those times where scripture meaning splits. For Jesus and us the meaning is that God gave Pilate the authority and thus the “from above” would be from heaven. Pilate would not get this but would see “from above” as from higher ranks than he, in this case Caesar and Rome.

These words fresh on his mind he goes back out to address the crowd and tries to give Jesus to them to deal with.

“ I still find him not Guilty“

“If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”

Notice that the accusation has changed from religious to political. If Pilate does not give them what they want they will go to Caesar. If this happens, Pilate gets called back to Rome and most likely will never return. Pilate brings Jesus back out.

 “Look, here is your king!”

“Away with him! Crucify him!”

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

Pilate for the first time has brought two words together here for the first time, King and crucifixion.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.

The leading Priests have pulled the last straw and by doing so have denied their very existence. They have just rejected and reprioritized their God that they worship and pledged it to Caesar as Pilate hands Jesus over to them to be crucified.

Some have gone as far as to say that this was Pilate’s defining moment. He was forced to make a definite decision. Even though he found nothing wrong with Jesus and repeated this several times to the Jewish leaders. In the end, it was not enough. Pilate chose to rearrange his priorities to please the people instead of keeping his priorities to Roman justice on top.

Likewise each of us will face many defining moments in our lives. Every decision that we make defines who we are, what we believe and where our priorities lie. How we align our priorities says a lot about where we stand especially when it comes to Jesus Christ. Eventually, like Pilate, every single one of us will have to face this decision of where Christ stands with us. Is he on the top of our priority list, guiding our every move? Is he in the middle, someone we go to when we absolutely need Him? Or worse is he on the bottom having almost nothing to do with our daily lives?

What Pilate didn’t know on that day was that this was far from over. Three days after Pilate made this decision he would have to investigate the disappearance of Jesus’ body. Sending a trusted centurion to discover what had happened. No doubt this centurion would confront many of the same people that we read about in the New Testament. One author’s depiction of how such a conversation between a Roman centurion and Joseph of Arimathea goes like this.

“Tell me Centurion. What will you do if you find the rabbi’s body—“

“When I find him—“

The Pharisee’s smile was otherworldly. “If you find him, what if the finding causes your entire world to be shaken to its very core? What if you find the answers you seek, and everything you held as important, everything that shaped your world all comes crashing down?”

“I don’t understand your –“

What if you do discover the truth and the truth shatters you life? Joseph leaned closer until all the centurion could see was the fire at the center of the Judean’s dark eyes, “And what if it forces you to leave behind all your ambitions and your desires? What then centurion? What will you do then?”

All of us have or will face the question about how Christ will fit into our lives. For some maybe this is the first time, others it may be a daily struggle, yet others have made the decision a long time ago and have allowed Christ to be the top of the priority list. When you are faced with this decision of where Christ will set in your list, will you allow Christ to rearrange your priorities so he can be at the top or will you keep him where he is and continue on with your life.

I leave you with one question. When you discover the truth about Jesus and it forces you to reevaluate your priorities and it forces you to leave behind everything, your ambitions, desires, everything, What then? What will you do then?