Who Has a Target on Their Back

Last week this writer was involved in an accident where suddenly a semi-truck hit the rear end of his car on a highway sending the car spinning out of control.  No other vehicle was hit. A couple days after the accident this writer had a conversation was had with a friend and the thought was expressed that it felt like there was a target on my back.  Now granted the thought was a little dramatic but rooted in having been involved in a prior scary accident about five years earlier. There are also things that have happened in life while engaged in helping others grow and receive freedom.  The thought came to my mind that there is a concerted effort to do me harm.  Now before the reader begins to think this writer is developing paranoia or grandiosity or becoming too concerned with own scope in the grand scheme understand that there is a wider picture here. Sure, this writer may be targeted from harm by spiritual forces. It is a certain possibility. However, it is not isolated to this writer and it is not even isolated to believers in Jesus as Messiah and who surrender to Him as Lord.  The fact is everyone has a target on their backs.  Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”   Granted, the verse there is directed at believers. But it is just not believers that “the enemy” is seeking to destroy. It is all of humanity.  “The enemy” wants many harmed. In John 10:10 it states “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy” which indicates that all of us have a target on our backs.  And in other words, there is really nothing “special” about any of us and what we go through. It is part and parcel of living life and we are all targets for destruction.

Now that being said, yes, there are times when things happen in our lives where things go beyond coincidence.  And certainly engaging in the work of loving others and helping others overcome the pain, destruction, chains, and traps of the battle of life brings on difficulties the evidence an attack. But the attack has nothing to do with that person but more about who we serve, that we are servants of the most high God.  Now, given that the enemy seeks to destroy all God has given us directions.  We are to take every thought captive. He are to put on the “full amour of God.”  We are to be sober minded and alert. We are to be involved in tearing down strongholds by spiritual means.  We are to cast down imaginations. We are to stand firm and endure.   Our job is not to “defeat” an enemy but to bring people into God’s kingdom and save them from destruction.  Bad stuff happens. Periods of time where we catch the attention of the enemy do occur and has an impact, in other words stuff does happen. In all that we are to engage and endure and rescue others.  So, yes I have a target on my back, so do you, and so does everyone else.  Be about the business of loving and caring for others and point them to God’s kingdom.

Holy Week Musing: Remembrance and the Last Supper

Today, Wednesday is considered the day historically the Passover feast occurred known as the Last Supper.  One can imagine with the events that occurred and the place being provided for the meal as directed by Jesus that there was great anticipation by the disciples.  Surely Jesus would explain what was going on.   Essentially he did just that and it was only realized later by the disciples.  See Jesus intended the day to be a day of remembrance.  The Passover meal was already one God established as a day of remembrance, Jesus filled it up with meaning and gave the disciples images and lessons they would not forget in spite of everything to follow.

Before looking at what Jesus did that was so memorable, it is worth briefly reviewing what Passover provided a reminder of: Salvation!  It is the day the Jewish nation and all that were under the blood of the lamb to be saved from death.  It was the day the Jewish nation was freed from the Tyranny of Egypt and all its gods.  It was a move from the way of the world to the way of God.  The Passover meal brought all this to reminder every year.   The point of this article is not to review all the Passover gives remembrance of, but to focus specifically on what Jesus added to the memory. (It is worth the time to do a search and examination further of the messianic Passover symbolism and encourage all to take time to do such examination.)   There are four key memorable moments that are worth highlighting: the identification of His betrayer, the call to remember the bread and wine, not drinking the last cup, and the washing of the disciples feet.

The first key moment of memory is when Jesus identified Judas as the betrayer and he left.  Jesus told them someone would betray him, none pointed at anyone else, all wonder if it was them.  Jesus did not directly identify but did with symbolism.  The one who dipped into the bitter herbs the same time as Jesus, Judas was identified. Judas then left.   Certainly the disciples remembered that act, but also had it fresh in their minds their own ability to do such an act.  For they all questioned and the memory would stick.

The second point of memory is when Jesus declared a specific point of remembrance: the taking of the bread and wine.  Unfortunately some of the meaning has been forgotten in the church as a whole. We remember the symbols of blood and wine, but we lose the important and central part of Passover Jesus was pointing out.  The bread consumed was the “afikomen.” It is the last thing eaten. It is the bread broken and hidden.  When Jesus broke and ate this bread, declared it His body, He declared himself as Messiah. He declared the coming salvation through His death and resurrection as symbolized by that element of the Passover meal.  The wine was the third cup known both as the cup of redemption and the cup of blessing.[i] When he drank this cup, called it His blood, he declared His blood the source of redemption and blessing.  He then made certain He proclaimed himself as Messiah and set forth significant points of remembrance.

One memorable element to the disciples but clearly forgotten in the church today is that Jesus did not drink the final cup, the cup of praise.  He state he would not drink of the fruit of vine again, until His Kingdom comes (Luke 22:18). It is said that Jesus will finally drink the fourth cup after His second coming after His wrath has been meted out and the millennial reign begins.  One of the reasons it is easily forgotten, as it has yet to be fulfilled, it is coming and there are many other images and thoughts that fill our mind than the drinking of the fourth cup. It would be fresher in our minds if the church had not set aside the participation in the Passover feast.

The finals act of remembrance worth commenting on was Jesus showing himself a servant and washing the feet of His disciples.  Now there is plenty of moments of “washing” in the Passover meal, and the meal finishes with that ceremonially washing. Jesus took further. He took the meaning of the cleansing the washing a step further, to illustrate He was humbling self, serving us, and would clean us wholly. It was an astounding act unheard of, unthinkable.  Peter was so taken a back that He wanted to refuse to let Jesus serve Him in such a way.  The impact of the message definitely stuck with the disciples.

Now, there is much more that went on at the last supper that Jesus gave the disciples to remember. He spent great deal of time teaching and explaining, trying to clear their confusion and redirect their expectations.  Jesus did this day what He set out to do, created a time that would be remembered and examined, pointing to what He was about to do and gave meaning to the Passover meal.

God wants us to remember and we do, even though what we remember has been reduced and diminished.  We still take time each year to remember.  God sent His son to die that we might live.  Sure we miss plenty, but we still remember and thank God for the gift of the eternal Passover lamb, the eternal afikomen, the eternal cup of salvation and blessing. He died, so that all who turn to Him shall live, just as all who lived who came under the blood on the doorpost. The question for each, has the blood of the eternal Lamb been set on your doorpost, are you marked within so you may live.  Now is the time, while it is still today, to consider and act so that you may be saved.   And if you have your doorpost marked, celebrate and remember for He has freedom us from the tyranny of sin and death and given us true life.

Holy Week Musing: The Growing Confusion

 

Yesterday, Palm Sunday 2011, thoughts were focused on the great expectations found in the crowd of people when Jesus enteredJerusalem.  Emotions and expectations were at a peak. Those expectations readily turned to great confusion.  People expected that when the Messiah came toJerusalem, all would be made right the Son of David who would reign forever would take his place. So Jesus, came, people were ecstatic for Jesus did recently raise Lazarus from the dead.  There would be no stopping Him.

So what did Jesus do?  Did he go after the Roman tyrants? No, He went to the temple and wreaked havoc with those plying their goods and services for Passover.  Questions started to mount.  They listened to Him, and He talked of things that didn’t make sense such as to gain your life you must lose it. He talked ofJerusalembeing destroyed. He told parables and stories that didn’t make sense.  The question on peoples mind is “Is this what we were waiting for?” or “What on earth is He doing?” leading eventually to “This doesn’t make sense.”  The crowd clearly became confused.

The disciples, those closest to Him also became confused. Yes, they heard Him talk of needing to die.  Peter boldly proclaimed He would follow Jesus anywhere.  But the disciples didn’t get it, for how could they? We know read the accounts and at times wonder how they could miss it, but each of us would to.  It was very confusing.  Talk of going where cannot follow.  Talk of not knowing the day and hour of the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus was right there with them. It was just all so confusing. 

Yet, God knew this.  God knows we do not grasp or understand His ways. He does give us what we need that if we see and hear, things at one point will be made clear.  Certainly not in the immediate moments of great confusion, but when needed, God’s answers are provided as needed.  If we are seeking, following, and surrendered to God, we will get clarity in time.  If not, there will be anger, disgust, and despair for the truth is rejected with the thoughts that the truth does not make sense enough to be true.

See, the truth of Jesus coming toJerusalemto die as the eternal sacrifice, the eternal lamb made no sense. What mind could grasp the plan of God, which was the Messiah would die.  He left the message, it was clear, but people were confused and did not understand.  Yet, God had His plan, and now there is way for all to be set free and redeemed by acceptance and surrender to God through Jesus.  This concept still confuses many today, yet is the truth. For the fact is we really do not grasp the depth of God’s love and His actions. We really just do not “get it” at times.  Yet, God works through it all.  God is in control and He will be glorified.  For His love is so great that He in His love, served us by taking on Humanity while fully God and engaging in an action that sets right that which was twisted.  The choice is to accept and walk in that way, or reject it. All it takes is getting beyond the confusion, letting God, and trusting God and His great love.

Palm Sunday Musings: Moving Beyond Great Expectations

Today, Sunday 4/17/11, is Palm Sunday. It is the day that we remember and celebrate Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem where people placed palm fronds before Him. Palm fronds historically mean triumph and victory[i] and the act of laying them down before someone was a common welcome for a coming king or hero.[ii] The crowd was anticipating Jesus arrival. Part of the great anticipation stems from the resurrection of Lazarus. The Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Church recognize the Saturday prior to Palm Sunday as Lazarus Saturday with belief that Lazarus was raised from the dead on that day.[iii]  The palm Sunday account in John 12 does suggest that the resurrection of Lazarus was fairly recent as the crowd and followed him and those conspiring to kill Jesus also want to kill Lazarus. 

 So the scenario is that Jesus shown Himself to have power over death in resurrecting Jesus and approached Jerusalem.  The crowd was rife with anticipation. Jesus showed himself to have power over death. Expectations soared. The thoughts had to be The Messiah had finally arrived as who else has power over death. Finally the Son of David is coming to claim the throne, set all things right, and set them free from home and establish the reign of David.  They expected great and big things.  God’s plans were quite different.  Soon the crowd would turn.  Many who proclaimed “Hosanna” later proclaimed “Crucify Him!”  What changed? 

God’s plan was not what people expected.  They were expecting immediate relief and victory. They were focused on this life and the political tyranny they lived under.  They looked with eyes of this world, not eyes on the eternal world.  They looked for a conquering king, not a lamb to be slain. God ways did not meet the human expectation. Even those who did not join in the refrain to kill Jesus did not get it.  So the retreated and withdrew not having a clue what was going on.  They gave everything to follow Jesus, for what? To see him die?  They didn’t sign up for that, even though told over and over that was the plan, they didn’t get it.  No rather, on Palm Sunday, expectations were great.  Lazarus was alive and who could stop Jesus. He will bring victory.  

Guess what, we often still do not get it.  We have expectations. We get caught up in this world. God does not do things the way we expect. We fail to see His way and His victory. We often get angry when God doesn’t match our expectations or withdraw when we have no idea what God is doing as it does not match how we think things should play out.  But God’s ways are not our ways.  God did bring victory. He used the events to follow to redeem all that will surrender to Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Jesus is making all things right, but still we can miss it. We can still get distracted with the ways of the world and what we want God to do in this world, in the here and now. Life can be focused on what is going on “immediately” and the varied “tyrannies of suffering” we live under. We want all made right and want to see God working now.  Ah, but God asks us to surrender in spite of all before us.  Whatever pain, whatever struggle, whatever is going on in this life. The call is to trust Him and surrender to Him.  This is day to day moment by moment. We each need to get past our great expectations and surrender. 

And here is what is worth focusing on today, and the true celebration. Jesus is soon coming to make all things right.  He will be coming back as the Lion of Judah.  He will be coming to set all things right. He who has power over death is coming and will conquer all. Every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord above all Lords, King above all Kings.  At that point, it will be truly Hosanna in the Highest, for there is none like the Lamb who was slain who comes forth as the Lion of Judah, He above all others.  He who is both Lamb and Lion.  The time is coming, rejoice. Set aside the thoughts and expectations of self, for God has His ways. In Him alone is victory.  Look to His life, and let go of whatever you hold onto. While it is still Today, let go and surrender, for there is no other way.


Musings on the New Year: Digging Deep and Advancing

Well 2010 has came and went and 2011 is now here and under way. For me there are two words that have been resonating and seem central to what God is doing in my life. These words started even back during Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year but seem to be at an apex. The two words are deep deeper and advance. For me these are key to whatever change is coming in the year to come. For all those that read this blog want to challenge you do the same.

Now granted, some of you may be thinking “Um, Tim, your articles and musing can already get deep enough, you encourage going deeper?” Well, the answer is absolutely, for no matter the appearance of depth, compared to the greatness and awesomeness of God the depth is still shallow. Going deeper involves letting God’s truth sink to the depths of my heart and soul. It is drawing deeply from living water. It is being root and grounded at a deep level on God’s word and truth. No matter where we are there is more depth to be found. Take a quick look at Luke 6:48 (ESV)
he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
In all my time going over the verse, talking about it, even teaching on it the “dug deep” part is missed. We focus on the rock versus sand, but the rock is down “deep.” Here is the reality, sound and sure faith is one that is deep, for there is support and surety in depth. Whatever we do, whatever fruit we hope for, whatever may be ahead is only sure by becoming deeply immersed in God’s truth. So ask the Lord God to show you ways to grow deeper.

The other word that comes to my mind is advance, moving forward. This is key for me for there is much ahead. The past year was one of a lot of preparation complete with assorted trials in my life and those around me. But God calls not just to prepare and passively sit by. He does not call us to dig deep and rest. He calls us to move ahead, move forward. Again with the thoughts of advance, God leads me to some other words of Jesus in Matthew 11:12 (ESV)
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. These words perhaps lose significant in the English for we may think in the terms of physical violence and force of will. But if you take time to consider the words, it really speaks to an intensity of moving forward and grabbing hold of that which God sets before us. It is true for walking into God’s kingdom and true for our moving about in the areas God directs us to engage. One way to put the phrase may be the Kingdom of heaven is “Wild” and those energized will seek to seize it. This involves no sitting passively by, it involves energy to grab hold of that which God puts forth, which is not predictable. Now scripture is filled with many action words and directions that entail the seizing such as “reap, sew, love, rise up, take up” and so on. This is a concept beyond “Carpe Diem” of seizing the day. God does call us to live in the moment, but the moment is saturated in Him and His will. And here is the deal, in the moving forward, in the advancing we need one another. We need support and encouragement. For it is easy to get twisted and deceived and there are many traps and we need others to speak us the truth and help us back on the path when we could no longer “grasp hold” and go flailing about on our own way.

My hope and prayer as you read these thoughts is God stirs in you awareness of areas to dig deeper and move ahead. Also please do feel free to check in with me related to my digger deeper and advancing. The starting point is what is God stirring in you. It is a new year, new day, new chapter, and a new beginning. Let God move you deeper and then seize what God has before you and then buckle up, for serving God is always a wild ride.

Musing on the Ascension and waiting

Yesterday was the anniversary day of the Ascension. The day Jesus returned to Heaven.  He spent forty days on earth after the Resurrection teaching and explaining things to the disciples.  There are a few interactions recorded in scripture of some of the time He spent but most of it was not. Basically, the forty days were spent with Jesus really explaining the meaning of scripture to the disciples in relation to what just happened. He made sure they were on a sure ground of understanding. In the Gospel of Luke he is described as opening their minds to understand scripture. In the book of Acts he is described as teaching them about the Kingdom of God.   Jesus took time to make sure they fully understood and had full knowledge before he returned to heaven. He also gave them instruction to wait.  They were waiting for the power, the Comforter that was promised.  They waited because the knowledge itself was not enough; the power of the Holy Spirit was needed.  So the disciples waited. 

The ascension was definitely a strange day for the disciples. They had to be awe struck as they saw Jesus leave. Acts describes them as just standing there staring. They needed a message from angels to get them moving again and they followed direction.  The emotions had to be raw. There had to be pain of separation. They had forty days of joy and learning and wondering what would happen next.  The learned new insights and really began to fully understand and then Jesus left with instructions to wait.   Since they were all gathered together on Pentecost, I believe they were told how long they had to wait and the importance of the day to come. No it is possible Jesus did not spell it out and they all were together to celebrate the feast. God does often leaves waiting without the details, but I believe Jesus told them enough to know that the coming Feast something important would happen.  So they waited and prayed. Excitement and anxiety building each day for what would come. 

Waiting is difficult.  When waiting on God to act and move in His time is challenges faith. There is the mix of anxiety and excitement.  There are often encroaching doubts and questions.  Especially in relations to be sure of understanding fully what God has shown us.  The time is best spent seeking God, taking time to understand what has gone on, make preparations for what is ahead, but still it is waiting.  Often God works as he did here.  He gives us times of knowledge, learning, and growth. He then has us enter a time of waiting and preparation.  The waiting period serves to let us more deeply grasp what we learned and let it reach a level beyond just knowledge.  Sometimes the waiting is tough, particularly if we are not given specifics of when.  However, knowing the specifics does not make it any easier.  There is always a temptation not to wait, to take matters into own hands and bring about what God promises on our own.  Scripture is filled with examples of such choices.  In the days following the Ascension though we have a picture of faithful waiting. 

Ultimately we are all in an ongoing process of waiting that is undefined. Jesus has left and his return is soon. We have the Holy Spirit to direct and comfort us, to leads us in to the right paths and to build us up and cleanse us.  We have the ongoing work of salvation and sanctification going on in our lives.  Yet, the waiting gets tough.  We live in a world filled with darkness filled with pain and suffering. Each of our lives is touched with pain and sorrow.   We lose focus. The pains, doubts, and anxiety overwhelm us. God’s love and plan is questioned. We easily get distracted and lose focus.  Yet, Jesus is coming soon.   Yet, while he is in Heaven making all preparations, he is still active and he is here.  We have access through the Holy Spirit and He is here. 

So we wait and we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.  We are to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.  We can rest simply on our knowledge and what is written in God’s word. Yet, the disciples were told to wait for more. We cannot diminish or separate the importance of the Holy Spirit and His empowerment.  For if we are acting simply of our own knowledge are efforts are of self and weak. When we are following the lead of the Holy Spirit and acting at His direction, God moves in powerful ways. Sometimes we are aware and see the result, often it is unseen for we are at the time where each day is a day to grow in faith.  Waiting is really about time to grow and build faith.  In waiting we learn the limits of our faith. In waiting God causes what he has done to grow and take root.  Waiting is a really a Holy time we really struggle to grasp. The ten days that the disciples waited before being empowered by the Holy Spirit were a special, God ordained time.   The time is painful, difficult, and intense but God has a purpose.  When waiting follow the disciples lead and review, worship, pray, and prepare.  Do not retreat into fear and anxiety but look ahead and behind for the time that is coming, what God has in store is glorious.  When Jesus returns there will be no greater day. When God acts in our life in the now, it reflects that greater glory as he moves in deeper maturity and dependency on Him.

On Responses to Jesus Resurrection

Thoughts over the past week have centered on the varied reactions to the Resurrection of Jesus.  There were distinct reactions from those who followed Jesus and there was a distinct reaction of those who rejected to the point of overseeing his crucifixion. Now for his followers there are the women, the eleven disciples, and others.  Regardless, the reactions generally were the same with variation based on individuals.  Each account involves some initial shock and disbelief. The women asked the angel where he took the body.  The disciples did not quickly believe the reports of the women. Peter and John who met the women on the road went to check it out for themselves.  Of course we all know Thomas’s famous doubt even when face to face with our risen Lord. But the fact is the resurrection was so wondrous, so contrary to the grief that the first response was that of shock, doubt, and denial. 

After the initial shock and wonder, soon came wonder, joy, and astonishment as well as confusion.  All they knew is Jesus who was dead was alive. He ate with them. He talked with them. They were able to touch wounds even so far as to place hands in his side.  They all went through a major mood swing; loss of hope, depression, uncertainly followed by pure joy, excitement, and wonder.  Jesus who was just killed was alive. Jesus was alive, fully alive.  His body did not show signs of the tremendous abuse he went through other than the wonders.  When you understand just how incredible the resurrection was, the doubt of Thomas is a bit clearer.  How could it really be Jesus, fully alive, fully functional after all he went through, yet this was the true fact.  Jesus was alive.  It is really hard to fully grasp the depth of response.  Think of your worst possible moment, the darkest time in your life.  Now imagine after that darkest moment you find out that it is reversed in an incredible way beyond expectation or understanding.  Such a reaction is but a taste of what Jesus followers experienced.

Now there are others who had a completely different response. Essentially they are those who conspired to see Jesus crucified.  They didn’t struggle with the feelings of the disciples, rather they went to self-protection and keeping their image their reality in place.  They protected their power and position.  They had to have a plausible story, for it would be hard to deny the resurrection testimonies without a plausible story. So what did they do?  They conspired further. They bribed the guards to put their lives at risk and say the body was stolen.  It is a lie still believed by many today.  The lie and the conspiracy was all about keeping power, for what they feared is if Jesus was truly from God and the story was true, they lose all power.  Everything they worked for and made decisions over was but nothing.  They wanted their power.  So they continued to protect themselves and paid for lies to be spread.  Over time the lies would grow as the supernatural events of the day pass from memory. The dead leaving graves became just a story quickly brushed off. 

So thinking this over, the question really is how does Jesus resurrection impact you?  Are there things you seek to maintain control and cannot surrender.  Do you believe God is capable of redeeming any who would come?  Because it is the power of the resurrection that bears witness to redemption, the empty tomb speaks.  Will you listen to the truth and let it touch your life and change you from the darkness surrounding to glorious and joyful unimagined change?  This is the resurrection.  This is God’s love.  This is what is true peace on earth, Jesus died and rose again so that all may live. Jesus is the only way, there is no other path.  There is nothing anywhere that truly has the demonstrated power of resurrection.