How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place

I’m sorry for not having posted since Easter week.  I have been sick and am busy writing some samples for a few Christian publishers.  I appreciate your prayers as I know that I cannot write without the aid of the Holy Spirit.  Today I just want to post Psalm 84 for your own reflection and encouragement.  

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob!
Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed!
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God 
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!
Amen.

Resurrection Sunday

Read Luke 24:36-49
See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. Luke 24:39

All Gospel writers record Jesus’ death and resurrection. Luke records that Jesus had resurrected from the dead sometime early that morning, before dawn, appeared to two followers on the road to Emmaus that afternoon, and by evening appeared to the eleven remaining disciples. Jesus was alive! He was not resurrected only spiritually, as Jehovah Witnesses believe, but he was resurrected physically as witnessed by the fact that you could see and touch his physical body and witnessed by the fact that he ate fish with his disciples. The importance of Jesus returning to life in both body and spirit is that he conquered sin in the body and truly holds power over death in the body.

Jesus reiterates again to his disciples what he told them earlier in the week before his death in Luke 24:36-49. First, he reminds them he brings peace. Jesus entered the room with the disciples by saying peace to you. Through his resurrection, Jesus made a way for us to be at peace with God (v. 36). Secondly, his power over death gives our hearts no reason for fear, trouble, or doubts. His resurrection drives away a troubled heart (v. 38-39). Thirdly, he has fulfilled Scripture in every way, especially through his death and resurrection (v. 44-46). Fourthly, his death and resurrection has commenced a new kingdom in which repentance and forgiveness of sins can be preached to all nations (v. 47). Lastly, with his ascension at hand, the Father will send, as Jesus has already promised, the Holy Spirit in his place (v. 49).

Because Christ has risen, we have peace. Because Christ has risen, we too will raise with him if we have united with him in faith. Because Christ has risen, we can join with Paul and say, “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:53)

Make the following song by Keith and Kristyn Getty your prayer and your song today as you worship the risen King.

See What A Morning, ©2003

See, what a morning, gloriously bright,
With the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
Folded the grave-clothes, tomb filled with light,
As the angels announce, “Christ is risen!”
See God’s salvation plan,
Wrought in love, borne in pain, paid in sacrifice,
Fulfilled in Christ, the Man,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

See Mary weeping, “Where is He laid?”
As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
Hears a voice speaking, calling her name;
It’s the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years,
Speaking life, stirring hope, bringing peace to us,
Will sound till He appears,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit who clothes faith with certainty.
Honor and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned with pow’r and authority!
And we are raised with Him,
Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with Him,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead.

The Plan that Failed

Read Matthew 27:62-66
So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. Matthew 27:66

Gospel writers Mark, Luke, and John, in their account of Jesus’ death and resurrection, skip from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. We do not know what Jesus’ disciples and devout followers were doing on that Sabbath, even though we can assume they were in deep mourning. Matthew is the only Gospel writer who records any type of event on that Sabbath; however, his focus was not on what Jesus’ followers were doing but rather what the priests and the Pharisees were up to. Ironically, the priests and Pharisees, who were adamant about not working on the Sabbath, were working hard this particular Sabbath to ensure the protection of Jesus’ tomb. Though they referred to Jesus as an imposter, they remembered Jesus said that in three days he would rise, a saying that not even his disciples seemed to remember. So they told Pilate they were afraid his disciples were going to steal his body in an attempt to say Jesus rose from the dead. They then said that if that happened, it would be a greater fraud than the first, the first fraud referring to the claim Jesus made that he was the Son of God.

However, by the Jewish leaders securing the tomb with guards, a rope and a wax seal,* they actually gave more credence to Jesus’ resurrection. Since there was no way for the disciples to steal his body, Jesus’ resurrection had even greater credibility. Had the Jewish leaders simply left the tomb alone, Jesus’ resurrection could perhaps have been subjected to doubts and queries as to if the disciples had stolen his body. However, thanks to the Jewish leaders, rather than his resurrection being a scam, it was an undeniable reality. Instead of being indicted as a fraud, Jesus was acquitted by his resurrection. Instead of being an imposter, Jesus was exactly who he said he was. The Pharisees and priests were trying with all their human power to stop Jesus from doing what he said he was going to do, but instead their weak human attempts displayed even more so God’s power.

If we jump to after Jesus’ resurrection in Matthew 28, we read that the guards, who were standing at the tomb, reported what had happened to the chief priests. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they (the chief priests) gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, ‘Tell people, his disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.”

Have you ever found yourself doubting in Jesus’ resurrection? Are you struggling with the reliability of Scripture? Are you doubting the power of God in your life? If nothing else, this passage confirms that nothing can thwart the plan of God and that what he says he will do, he will do.  May this passage strengthen your faith in God, your faith in his power, and your belief in Jesus’ resurrection.

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Acts 2:22
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Colossians 2:8-10

*See Frank E. Gaebelein, ed, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 586.

Good Friday: Yet He Bore the Sin of Many

GOOD FRIDAY
Crucifixion
Read Isaiah 53

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
He had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him. (Is. 53:1-2)
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger. (Luke 2:7)
But (he) made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:7)

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted by grief,
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Is. 53:3)
But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified.’ (Mt. 27:23)
And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they
had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. (Mk. 15:19-20)
But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. (Lk. 23:23
)
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted. (Is. 53:4)
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. (Mk. 15:33)
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mt. 27:46)
This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23)

But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed. (Is. 53:5)
Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. (Jn. 19:1)
But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. (Jn. 19:34)
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. (1 Pet. 2:24)

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned – every one – to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Is. 53:6)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)
For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Pet. 2:25
)
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth. (Is. 53:7)
But he (Jesus) remained silent and made no answer. (Mk. 14:61)
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Pet. 2:22-23)

…yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Is. 53:12c)
And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ (Lk. 23:34)
And Jesus cried out with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. (Mt. 27:50)

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper

The Last Supper
Read Matthew 26:26-29
For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew. 26:28

This was not the first Passover meal Jesus had observed with His disciples; but, it most certainly was his last on this side of the cross. Jews from all over the Roman Empire had come to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover week, so it is likely the disciples had thought they too had come to Jerusalem in light of this celebration. However, Jesus did not come to celebrate the Passover per se, but rather to generate a new “Passover.”

The Passover up to this time commemorated when God had passed over the first born of Israel by the blood of a lamb in Egypt. The Jews passed over from impending death to life thanks to the death of a lamb. Yet, this Passover was only the beginning as it inaugurated a sacrificial system in which animals would constantly have to be slaughtered for the appeasement and forgiveness of sin. Through Jesus’ death, however, the sins of people would be appeased once and for all and all who would believe in Jesus would experience an everlasting passing over by God.

When Jesus broke the bread and said, this is my body, he was communicating that his body would be physically broken. Jesus had already told the disciples in John 6:35, I am the bread of life, and now the bread of life is going to be broken for them (1 Cor. 11:24). When Jesus said the cup represented his blood being poured out, he was fulfilling the sacrificial system as summed up in Leviticus 17:11 – For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. So as the disciples joined with Jesus in taking the bread and the cup they were joining Him in a new meal – a meal that communicated the sacrifice he was to make for the forgiveness of sins.

Have you eaten with Christ at this new meal? Have you received from him the once-and-for-all forgiveness of sins? As we prepare our hearts for Good Friday and the sacrifice he made for us at the cross, let us too sit at the table with him thinking of the cost. And let us reflect on the following Scripture that helps explain the significance of the cross.

“…and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Hebrews 9:22b
“For the death he died he died to sin, once for all…” Romans 6:10a
“He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” Hebrews 7:27
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18

Not As The World Gives

Read John 14:25-30
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

With Jesus going to the cross within two days time, He comforts his disciples. He tells them his leaving this world will produce great results; therefore, they can be comforted in his departure. By his leaving:
➢ The Helper, who is the Holy Spirit, will come and will remind and teach us all Jesus has spoken (v. 26).
➢ Jesus leaves his peace, a peace that the world is incapable and impotent to give. Only the God of peace can leave peace, and this peace is a sign of the beginning of the messianic kingdom (v. 27). [John quoted from Zechariah 9:9 in John 12:15 showing that Jesus fulfills the Messiah prophecy. Another sign of this coming king is that He will bring peace to the nations (Zech. 9:10), which Jesus also fulfills.]
➢ Our hearts are not to be troubled or afraid. His death does not leave us in fear; instead, it drives out the fear (v. 27).
➢ We may believe (v. 29).
➢ The world may know of the Son’s love for the Father (v. 31).

These words of comfort were not just for the disciples, but for us too. It has been some 2000 years since Jesus ascended to heaven, and we are living in an already-but-not-yet kingdom. Jesus’ death has inaugurated the new covenant and new kingdom. Jesus is our Lord, but we still get discouraged from time to time as we live in a world that is not yet fully redeemed and that shows no sign of submission to the one true lord Jesus. So we find ourselves with the disciples needing to be reminded by Jesus, as he is on his way to the cross, that his leaving is only temporary and is necessary. We find ourselves with the disciples needing to be comforted.

Peace is the result of being in a right relationship with God. If you are looking for peace in your life by simply going to church, walking down an aisle, and giving money, but you have never entered into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ or you are not living in a right relationship with God, you will never have the peace of God. Is the peace of Christ ruling your heart this holy week? What is keeping you from experiencing God’s peace?

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Last Instructions: Walk in the Light

Read John 12: 27-36a
So Jesus said to them, ‘The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you…While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ John 12:35a, 36a

If you knew you were going to die on Friday, what would you tell your spouse, children, parents, and friends? What last words would you leave them? This is the situation in which we find Jesus. He is in a conversation with His disciples giving them His last words. Last words are important because they convey what is most important to the person dying. Therefore, those words are usually best remembered. So Jesus instructs His disciples to walk and believe in the light.

Light is a prominent motif in the gospel of John. In John 1:5, John wrote concerning Jesus, the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Jesus had said concerning Himself in John 8:12, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. Light is used figuratively to represent righteousness and therefore life. Darkness, which is sin or unrighteousness, leads to death; but, righteousness leads to life. Since God is life, Jesus is logically the Light of the world.

For three years, it was easy for the disciples to walk in light because they had been literally walking with the Light of the world, Jesus Christ. But now He urges them to continue to walk in the light, because with His departure walking in light will not be as easy. He does not want, with His leaving, for sin to overtake His disciples. We are all prone to walk in darkness because we are by nature sinful people, but now, through Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection, we can step out of darkness into the light.

Are you walking in the light? What excuses have you given for not walking in the light? Are you using your own salvation as an excuse to walk in darkness? (If so, read Romans 6:15-19.) How does Jesus’ death for you on the cross compel you to continue to walk with Him?

As we think about His last words, let us also remember what Jesus said earlier in His ministry in John 3:19-21. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.