Monday, February 18, 2019

Fear ...

"But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay ...  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” -- Matthew 28:5-6, 10
I have a fear of heights. I remember having a job years ago that required my climbing to the top of a natural gas tower in times of emergency. Thankfully no such occasions ever came, because I found that half way up the stairs I froze and was unable to move forward and was almost unable to back down the stairs. I am living proof that fear is a power that can seriously cripple someone.
In light of the power that fear had over the women, the angel and Jesus quickly spoke to the issue. "Do not fear" was the message and the resurrection of our Lord was all that anyone needed to trade fear for courage. It's just not enough for someone to say "Do not fear", but when all the evidence around you gives hope and security you can be brave. This is what the risen Savior offers to everyone who comes to him... courage.
I have found that I can be confident at any height when I am standing on firm footing surrounded by a protective wall. Fear disappears when we have something or someone in which to trust. Jesus is that someone my friend, because he is the risen Savior. Step out of the dark and hear his words to you today... "Do not fear".

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Walls...

"And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom." - Matthew 27:51
Everywhere we turn, we hear about fences and walls. Some are built to provide simple privacy for quiet family and social occasions. Others are built to protect properties from vandalism and theft. But, no matter the reason, such obstructions are meant to keep people out at all cost. Only those with permission are allowed entrance.
Of all the events that surrounded our Lord's crucifixion, the torn curtain may hold the most significant message. Throughout the ages sinful man has been refused entrance into God's Holy presence. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden and a sinful world has been shut out ever since. Throughout the ages, the only means of entrance was found in an annual atoning blood sacrifice. But, on this day, the curtain was torn by God, from top to bottom, and  through the shed blood of Jesus, permission was given to enter.
Our God is Holy, Holy. Holy and we are sinful in more ways than we can count. The wall is rightly placed between sinful people and a Holy God. But the words of Hebrews 10:19-22 point us to the torn curtain... "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." Child of faith... you now have permission to enter, so draw near my friend, draw near.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Persecution ...

"They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said." - Matthew 27:28-29
In February, 2015, 20 Coptic Christians were killed by the Islamic State in Libya. Their bodies were finally returned to Egypt in May, 2018.  It was reported that they were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians. There are many believers who might ask why would God allow such persecution?
In the face of such martyrdom we might step back and consider the events recorded in today's reading. Our Lord was humiliated and mocked, even before he suffered the agony of scourging and crucifixion. Concerning this experience our Lord said in John 15:20, "Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." 
Never believe that God's children are meant to live a well received and respected life in this world my friend. No matter how much we try, at the end of the day those who follow Jesus will be mocked and humiliated just as He was. While God allows such persecution, He also provides the strength and grace to say "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)

Friday, February 15, 2019

Responsibility ...

"When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”" -- Matthew 27:24-25 
In the spring of 2009, a decision was handed down concerning a rape case in New York City. After a woman was raped repeatedly in the view of two NYC transit employees, the judge ruled that they had no obligation to do anything to help her other than to signal their superiors that police were needed at the station. The case is reminiscent of the Kitty Genovese murder in 1964, when a number of neighbors watched the stabbing without responding with help. When is someone expected to be responsible?
Social responsibility may be open to discussion, but spiritual responsibility is another matter entirely. When each person stands before God after they breathe their last, one question will be asked. "What have you done, in response to my Son?" Pilate wanted to be innocent of the blood of Jesus, but was that possible? Since "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23) and only "the blood of Jesus... purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7) "...how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3) Eventually, every individual person will be held responsible.
Have you found ways to "pass the buck"? Is the concept of personal responsibility archaic and  irrelevant to you? Are you aware that you have already made a decision about Jesus Christ, and you are responsible? John said it in 1 John 5:12, "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." What have you done, in response to the Son? The truth is; no one is innocent and everyone is responsible.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Make a difference ...

"And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end." - Matthew 26:58
I always marvel at the vast number of onlookers that collect when an tragedy occurs. Whether it be rubbernecking on the highway or the crowd gathered around a heart attack victim, people collect like flies to honey. While a large number will come together out of curiosity, there are very few that will step forward in the time of need to make a difference.
Peter was filled fear. He initially drew his sword to protect his Lord, but such boldness had quickly faded in light of the circumstances. The enemy had become far to formidable so Peter backed way. He followed at a distance out of curiosity to "see the end", but failed to step forward in the time of need to make a difference.
The question hangs in the air doesn't it? What could Peter have done anyway? The wheels were in motion and what good could one man do? Is this the kind of rationale that floods your mind when you come across a crisis situation my friend? Consider the possibility that every crisis is a new opportunity to step forward in a time of need to make a difference.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Right Fit ...

"Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”  -- Matthew 26:53-54
Occasionally I purchase a chair or small appliance that requires assembly. The process moves along quite well until I come to that one piece just won't fit. Now I have two choices; I can return to the store and exchange the piece for one that actually fits, or I can force the original one into place. Whenever I choose to force the process, things just don't work. The right fit is the best fit.
The time came for the atoning work of Jesus. It would involve tremendous sacrifice and distress for our Savior, but this was the only way for redemption to be achieved. Furthermore, the crown awaited our Lord, but only through the cross. Jesus could have called twelve legions of angels and forced the process, but the right fit is the best fit.
There are times that the Lord calls you to make serious sacrifices my friend. You might be tempted to force the issue to another path that would seem better and easier. The price to achieve the goal may seem too great, uncomfortable and undesirable. But as you reflect on the choice our Savior made when he went to Calvary, consider that the right choice is always fulfilling the Lord's will. Remember, the right fit is always the best fit.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Never a waste ...

"And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me." -- Matthew 26:8-10 

With the intention to evangelize the previously unreached Huaorani, five young missionaries began making regular flights over Huaorani settlements in September 1955, dropping gifts. After several months of exchanging gifts, on January 3, 1956, they established a camp at "Palm Beach", a sandbar along the Curaray River, a few kilometers from Huaorani settlements. Their efforts came to an end on January 8, 1956, when all five — Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming and Roger Youderian — were attacked and speared by a group of Huaorani warriors. Some people at the time may have said, "Why this waste?"
This dear woman, Mary of Bethany as mentioned in John 12:3, poured out a personal sacrifice to honor the Lord. No matter what the sacrifice, great or small, Jesus sees it as a beautiful thing. It is never a waste when we give our all to worship and serve the Lord. He sees the value in a far different manner than others. The moments to serve pass quickly and the wise servant will redeem the moments for the Glory of God. Our sacrifices for Jesus are never a waste.
When you evaluate your efforts made for the kingdom of God and wonder if it was worth it, remember that his ways are higher than your ways and his thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9) and "He has made everything beautiful in its time." (Ecclesiastes 3:11) In retrospect, a number of those responsible for the above martyrdom became strong followers of Christ and powerful preachers of the Gospel. In addition, over the years, many young people were inspired to give their lives for Missionary work. No sacrifice for Jesus is a waste!