I am writing these things to you so that


There is a song by Chris Sligh, off the Running Back to You album, titled, In a Moment. Lying here on the bed my mind began to wrap around those words, “In a moment” and it made me think of that day, which I do not think is that far away, where we will finally be returned to the arms of the Father who fought so hard to regain us, His family, back to himself.

I just finished my first 12 step group last Thursday 4/10/2014. It has been 10 months of the most amazing changes. Changes I did not think were possible. You see when you are deeply entrenched in your pain, you cannot imagine what it will feel like to be free, let alone breathe again. Thank God, I am free. On the 29th of this month, we will be standing before the audience, presented as graduates.

As I lay there this afternoon, trying to take a nap for I did not sleep well last night and I had to be up early this morning, I saw a vision of myself standing before the audience, all Celebrate Recovery attendees, most of them believers, and I heard this:

We all came here, wracked with pain, struggling to find answers, and our place in this world, but soon, we will be called home to stand before our Father, the Father that has loved us, longed for and fought for this moment with a desire that exceeds any desire that we could imagine. On that day, we will stand there clean, healed, and free of the exhaustion and habits that have beset us. Because on that day we will be changed in a moment, faster than your eye can blink, into someone whole, and free. Welcomed into the arms of love, never to struggle and hurt again.

Sadly, as I saw myself saying these things to the audience, I knew that some would sit there in unbelief. Riddled with hurts and anguish, as I have been, they cannot take it in, while others wept with joy, as I am doing now.

How do I know any of this, because I see it in the word of God. This is one of the many messages that the Apostle John tried to convey to us in 1John.

1 John 2:1-2 NASB My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; (2) and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Verse 1

My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin.”

What is it about the things he wrote that would, or should keep you from sin, or even better, create an atmosphere in you where you do not want to sin?

To answer that we need to understand what John had previously said.

  • We heard
  • We have seen
  • We looked upon
  • And our hands have handled of the Word of God.

The Life was manifested (made known) and we bear witness that our fellowship (communion, relationship, companionship) is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

This knowing, understanding, evidence is meant to produce not only a hope but also a confidence that what God said and promised is true.

Why does hope or confidence make you not want to sin? (Keep in mind that loosely translated sin means nothing more than missing the bull’s eye of a larger target.) Maybe because hope is built upon other things (spiritual things) and has everything to do with what motivates your goals, dreams and daily manner of living?

Let us assume that you are not that established and you do sin, rather consistently, then what?

“And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;”

Because of His actions, on our behalf, our relationship, from God’s point of view, is kept free of disgrace and is always open for communication.

Let us probe Genesis; for there I can give you some examples to prove my point, that God has never turned his back on us. Starting at chapter 3 verse 7 they have already acted selfishly and their eyes are now opened. They now understood what evil felt like. How did they respond to that? They both dive behind some bushes and try to form some coverings to hide their bodies, I suppose from each other, but particularly from God.

They heard the sound of God walking in the garden and they hid. How did the all-knowing God respond to that? With something that feels like respect when I read it, he asked where they were. You know He knew where they were, and he can certainly see through bushes. When God speaks with them, He spells out the ramifications of their sin, “makes” clothing for them (there is more to this scene than scripture lays out), and lays out his plan for salvation to them. Part of the clue to understanding this come from his comment to Eve found in Genesis 3:15.

If you fast-forward, the only two sons (since the fall) are old enough to be farmers and we find Able making a sacrifice with a lamb. Where did he come to this understanding? Cain, his brother, kills him out of jealousy and who shows up, God. God never turned his back on any of them. You might assume that they sort of lost contact with and God is just forgotten, but then you have a problem because with that kind of logic you cannot explain Noah.

There is one of character I want to point out, and that is Enoch. Scripture tells us that Enoch walked with God. What does that mean, and how did he learn to do that? It would seem that Adam had another son, Seth. Seth’s lineage produced Enoch and to the best of my understanding, Adam was 600 years old when Enoch came along. There is no better way to comprehend this than to assume that Enoch used to ask grandpa what it was like to walk with God. Enoch paid attention and did just that.

God was everywhere; we just do not look for it.

Verse (2)

“and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins”

Propitiation – that word is big enough to choke you. I asked the bible study what that meant (I knew the answer, I had it written down, but I wanted them to answer the question.) The new guy chimed in, after a quick reference check in his bible, with, the atoning sacrifice.

The atoning sacrifice was one that perfectly paid, in full, the debt, but Israel had the priests make these sacrifices all the time, only to blow it five minutes later. This is exactly why the writer of Hebrews had this discussion:

Hebrews 7:26-27 MKJV For such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens, (27) who does not need, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice daily, first for his own sins and then for the people’s sins. He did this once for all, when He offered up Himself.

You find this theme in Hebrews 9: 1-26, where it is clearly spelled out that Christ is that sacrifice, offered once, for all.

It is so hard not to say this – We have got it made. While this is true from God’s point of view, your pushing of boundaries always comes with a payment while you are here on earth.

Have you ever thought about how many there are, sitting in prisons, that lacking knowledge, gave in to their flesh or peer pressure, committed crimes and are in some cases permanent residents of the prison system; all while not realizing that they, if they are in Christ, have a good heart and an unbroken relationship with the Father.

“He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Putting himself on the cross brought a result that was all-encompassing. No human will ever be judged, as a prerequisite to an eternal relationship with the Father, based upon sin. We will be judged according to what we did with Jesus Christ, but is that really the end of it?

Look, those that are in Christ will be caught up to meet Him in the air someday very soon. You and I are not the judges of what that entails because there is that scenario in Matthew 25, that details ten virgins, all with intentions to go to the same wedding; and why not, they all have invitations. The end of the story implies that 50% are not ready to go.

I am going to throw this last bit in for free.

After the rapture, we assume that the only persons on earth left are those without Christ, what becomes of them?

Considering that the snatching away of the bride marks the beginning of the seven years of tribulation, the time after the rapture is often called the great tribulation. I happen to believe that the “great” part is specifically referring to the last three-and-one-half years.

(Tribulation is a relative term, for many are experiencing horrendous tribulation even now. Just today 4/10/2104, someone posted a photo of a girl who had her mouth and eye sewed shut because she was a Christian in the nation of Syria.)

Many of those left after the rapture will accept Jesus Christ as Lord. Even that can be loosely defined and here is why. While some will recognize their error and turn to Him, others will attempt to resist the control of the beast. This concept of the beast maybe easier to visualize if I say, the Beast is Islam, and you will be forced to worship Allah, taking some indicator of your submission, or die by the sword. It would seem that choosing against Islam and dying marks you as a martyr for God. Scripture deems you a Saint, and after Jesus Christ returns physically to earth, you will reign over the earth, for a thousand years with Him.

Here is the problem we followers of Christ seem to have. We believe that there must be a clearly stated acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord. Islam will not be that technical. Have you not noticed how Islamic rebels sweep into a Syrian, Christian community and arbitrarily kill everyone. They do not tend to ask questions, and their acts of torture have more to do with sadistic pleasure than a conversion.

John tells us in Revelation that the number of martyred Saints before the throne cannot be counted.

Since this started with my asking a generalized question, what exactly do I have left here on earth? People who come to Christ, and those who wish to see them killed. Scripture defines the haters (killers) as the nations.

In what other scenarios do we see the nations? Read Ezekiel chapter 38 and 39, for they speak both of Israel coming out of the nations, and the nations rising up against Israel with God coming to Israel’s defense.

The nations brought Israel down with Idolatrous ways, and Israel went into captivity among the nations.

Ezekiel 39:7 “My holy name I will make known in the midst of My people Israel; and I will not let My holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.

 

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Is there a way to stay in the light? Still wading through 1John 1:7


1 John 1:7 MKJV  But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Is there a way to stay in the light?

James 1:27 NASB Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

“And the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from every sin.”

It sounds as though we are free and clear. Every sin means past, present, and future.

So, are you telling me there are no repercussions for the life I have lived?

No, even Israel, roaming in the desert, before the law, had to deal with people based upon the severity of the act. Rebellious children could be brought before the city and stoned to death, and the entire city had to take part in the punishment. Considering the vulgar brutality of stoning, how often do you think that happened, not many?

The point is that there are penalties to pay for crimes committed. As we roam through life, my suggestion is that you stay out of the crime arena; it is just less hazardous. While we may have to pay for the fulfillment of our fleshly desires with prison time or worse, God has released us from the debt of death (eternal separation from God) that was placed upon us all through Adam’s treason. (I suspect that even Adam was extended mercy through the blood of Christ.)

Even though the statement (“And the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from every sin.”) gives the appearance of a complete restoration of rights, this does not guarantee us a home with the Father. That only comes by your acceptance of the fact that Jesus blood was paid on your behalf and you admitting that you need him.

My analogy goes like this. This earth is a large adoption agency and we are all in it. God comes down to pick out those He wants in his family. In doing so, he realizes He cannot leave any behind and so he pays the price necessary for all of them to come home with him. The only stipulation is that you have to agree to come. Some begin to whine, demanding to know what there is to eat. God responds with, why is that important, I own everything and my table is never empty so come, but many choose to reject his offer because that is not a clear enough answer for them. Others, thinking that he will make them cut their hair refuse to go. Some ask Him to wait while they get cleaned up, even as he assures them they are welcome as they are. Still others waste time in indecision and miss the bus. Many, even those with bad attitudes, put their name on the roster by accepting the fact that he paid the price in full, get in the bus and it leaves. Those with bad attitudes charge right in with their old behaviors saying, I do not take out trash, and where is the video game controller. The Father deals gently with all that, showing His amazing love toward those He paid such a huge price for; why? Because God regained a family that was willing to come, live, and have fellowship with Him.

There is truth to this concept if we look at Adam as our Father. When he chose to listen to his wife and not God and partake of a forbidden fruit, that moment he died. No, he did not just drop over dead, although that process began in him instantaneously. What did happen, fellowship with the Father was broken that very moment. Think about it. Adam’s demise took us with him.

Romans 5:12 GNB Sin came into the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned.

Did God, in disgust, run from them shamed and embarrassed? No, it was just the opposite. We find them attempting to hide from Him, as He sought them out.

Did God cease to try to talk with them? No, not only do you see Him speaking to them in the garden but also tells them they are banished from the area where the tree of life existed, and later tells them about other aspects of the death they have thrown themselves into. God reaffirms that Adam and Eve will continue to play a role in the redemption of man. You can come to the understanding that God did not break off relationship, they did. Ask yourself, how long does it take God to make skins for them to wear? And during that time turned his back on them, grumbling the entire about lousy, rebellious children? No!

I am going to throw this in for free.

Although it is not spelled out in black and white, God gave them the specific instructions necessary for making a sacrifice and why. How do I know this, because Abel did what was proper, and God challenged Cain, stating, that if he did what was right would not he be accepted; so God continues his desire to “fellowship” by speaking to Cain about the murder he committed? Doesn’t that tell us that the laws, only written in the memory of man gave man no excuse to run havoc outside the law that would require a sacrifice being made?

If you are going to be honest then you have to admit that the fall of man brought with it the knowledge of good and evil, NOT JUST EVIL, and we all inherited what Adam brought upon us. Therefore, it is embedded in the DNA and cannot be removed. Since the soul of man was created in the image of God all that had to be done was to wash it clean. We, who have accepted him, have accepted that the blood of Jesus, the payment for sin, was enough, and it was. Therefore we have been made new creatures, almost as though we do not have that old heart anymore.

Did God sarcastically say, you morons, do you think I cannot see you and your nakedness in those bushes? No, he demonstrated respect, mercy, and grace by asking them where they were. God knew exactly where they were.

The point here is that God did not change His desire or stance toward the man he created.

I am sure some of you have recently seen Russell Crowe as Noah. If you have a biblical perspective on the Noah story, then you know that God was eventually sickened by the thoughts and violence of virtually every man on earth when the flood took place.

Did it ever occur to you that even though God eventually brought the condemning flood upon the earth, that He provided the people with Noah, a prophet, and a one hundred year span in which to turn from their evil and get on the boat? Reality tells me that there was no way in which all the people on earth would have been able to fit on that boat along with all those animals. Obviously, God knew that they would not come, but the opportunity to restore fellowship was still extended.

Allow me to back this last statement up with some logic from God’s word.

Hebrews 11:7 KJV By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

1 Peter 3:20 MSG because they wouldn’t listen. You know, even though God waited patiently all the days that Noah built his ship, only a few were saved then, eight to be exact–saved from the water by the water.

Have you ever thought to yourself, why did it take 100 years to build a boat? Maybe there were no printed plans? That might slow someone like me down. Maybe, unlike in the recent Noah movie they were not in the middle of a forest with an unlimited supply of trees. No, God gave Noah the plans, so I do not think that was the issue. Perhaps a lack of manpower, considering that we have no record of boats or a need for them yet, that may have been a problem in securing help. There are so many variables when I apply my human thinking. Maybe I am right, and God was giving man the opportunity to repent.

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The person that lives in the light shares that light with others.


1 John 1:7 MKJV But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

The contemporary English version translated as “live in the light”

Walk – To make ones way, progress. (KJV)

Light – Anything emitting light; Truth and its knowledge; That which is exposed to all; God’s ways.

In contrast to the person that claims companionship with Christ but walks around in darkness, the person that lives in the light (Jesus is the light and we have that assurance in his word.) shares that light with others.

Think about it; if you emit the eternal light how do you prevent others from seeing it, or walking in it?

“But if” – There is always a variable; sadly, not everyone lives or walks in the light.

“As he is in the light,”

“He” can take on three possibilities.

  1. God – He is light (unapproachable light.)

1 Timothy 6:16 CEV – Only God lives forever! And he lives in light that no one can come near. No human has ever seen God or ever can see him. God will be honored, and his power will last forever. Amen.

Exodus 33:18-23 NASB – Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” (19) And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” (20) But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (21) Then the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; (22) and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. (23) “Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”

 

  1. Jesus – Since He is God, the Son of God, and the Word by which all things exist, then we can have him take the role of “he.” I suspect this is most likely whom John is referring to.

Hebrews 1:3 AMP – He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God's] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power. When He had by offering Himself accomplished our cleansing of sins and riddance of guilt, He sat down at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high,

  1. “He” can also represent the follower of Christ that walks in the light.

Let us be honest with each other once again. We all know “Christians” that are an embarrassment to many of us; I am one, but I am trying to figure out this “light” thing.

As many of you know I am in a Recovery group because circumstances put me into what feels like a lifetime of inadequacy and anger. Only recently, I vented that rage at my girlfriend again, and now I am single (so to speak, I have been single for 20 years) once more. I am writing this because I have an insatiable desire to understand God’s character and love for me.

If I can let you in on a secret, God’s mercy and grace reach so much farther than the damage of my sins – (my constantly missing the mark while I was trying to hit it.) However, that does not mean that I do not do damage; I do, but it does mean that His love for me is unbroken and unending. I have accepted that as fact, and isn’t that all God asks of us? God makes the offering of life with Him through Jesus Christ. All we have to do is accept that we have that life in Him.

The problem is that we are broken people, and we do not like it when someone walks in freedom when we think they should have their heads down in shame. That is called judgment and clearly not our job. Wow, that really spoke to me, but it took several rereads for me to catch it. This is exactly what my attitude has been toward the girlfriend for several days now.

In “Recovery”, you have to make amends so long as in doing so no one is injured physically or emotionally again. There are plenty of divorces that end in death; clearly, we are talking about physical injury in this case. So much like an early American fur trapper, there is no need to stick your foot in a vicious trap again.

Allow me, with the sincerity of my broken heart, to show how to forgive someone.

Father, as I have been writing this, you have made it clear to me that have judged her and held her in my heart with animosity, feeling as though she owes me. You have forgiven her no less than you have forgiven me, and you have released us, your creation from the debts we could never repay. She may never even consider her actions as something that she needs to repent of, therefore I must release her from any debt that I think she owes me. I hand her over to you, her Father. Deal with her lovingly, as I know you will. Father as the days go by and I deal with the loss and pain I ask that you remind me that she belongs to you and that you are in control. Remind me that you are teaching me something that is meant to bring about the fullness of your life in me. Show her your love, because apparently I could not. Oh, and Father. Teach me what it means to be a man who is not co-dependent, and yet loving without giving up my strength, in Jesus name.

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That which was from the beginning


With only a short span between our year long adventure in the Gospel of John and the start of “The Story”, several weeks ago we opted to jump into 1 John.

Due to circumstances beyond my reasonable control, something I will remedy quickly, I chose to focus on one man in the group who seems to struggle with understanding the bible (we should all admit that at times) and he wants to be a missionary. While being a theologian does not seem like a mandatory issue to me for being a missionary, having a foundational soundness should be; 1John comes off as being exactly that, foundational soundness.

I did a quick overview of 1John, and focused on verse one exclusively. If I base success on how I feel, I felt like I conveyed a good deal on verse one alone, and got some interaction out of my target audience. I often try to get the guys to interact, but there is always one guy that has to dominate, and this aspect is my thorn-in-the-flesh.

This last Sunday it was not my turn to lead, and yet I am so disgusted and exhausted by this battle with  dominant personalities that I was ready to quit.

You do understand that we humans, and especially followers of Christ have an enemy that one purpose in mind, to steal, kill, and destroy; his name is Satan. Religious folk will ask why I include humans as targets too. My answer to that is that we were all made in the image of God. Just because our image is tarnished by our own actions, as we choose to act selfishly, does mean that you were not created for communion with God. The general consensus is that non-believers are generally no threat to Satan’s deceptions and therefore leaves them alone; really, do you really believe that? Why then, is he trying so desperately to kill off even those who we presume will have no impact for the kingdom?, because God is in control, not us, and he has plans that we do not see or understand.

I say all that because I have had a rough four days, and I helped to make it rough, but not all. The thought that most guides me lately is, “Lord, what are you trying to teach me?

God has been working me over, probing into childhood wounds of abandonment and rejection, and either God or Satan is using people who are close to me, or claim to be Christians to aid in this probing. I will just tell you straight out, it still hurts. I have asked Jesus to enter into this wound with me, and to heal me, so, I guess I should have expected this onslaught.

I would never call myself a Theologian, most of my experiences with them have been horrid experiences. What I am is someone who absolutely loves the look in people’s eyes as they look into God’s word and it comes alive to them. Primarily because of one man I am losing that joy, and something has to change before it changes me.

Enough blabbing, let’s dive into 1 John with my short overview.

John was known as one of the son’s of Thunder, a title that does not convey much love. Here is an example of why.

Luke 9:54-56 NASB When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (55) But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; (56) for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."] And they went on to another village.

Jesus gave the two young men that name.

Mark 3:17 NIV  James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”),

I always point out that Jesus did not tell John that what he was asking was impossible; merely that it was an inappropriate reaction.

What was the proper reaction?

I suspect in some ways they saw and heard this on daily basis.

Matthew 5:43-44 NASB “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ (44) “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Jesus was asked, what is the greatest commandment of all? His response:

Mark 12:28-31 NASB One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” (29) Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; (30) AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ (31) “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Now, consider our perceived assessment of who and what John was in contrast to the message these three books attributed to him convey. “There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Something, or someone took John from being a son of thunder to being a man who finally understood that it was all about love, and John figured it out!

1 John 1:1 KJV That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

That which was from the beginning,”

Seems like something so simple that it really needs no discussion, but think about it. John MacArthur states, “This phrase refers to the proclamation of the gospel that centers in Christ’s person, words, and works as contained in apostolic testimony.”  I am not sure why I even put this MacArthur quote up here. He uses theology speak to merely say, that the phrase applies to his time, as recorded by the apostles. That may well be, but for me that limits my thinking, and there is no way that can happen, God cannot be contained by my limited thinking.

So what then could we consider the beginning to be?

I asked this directed question to one of the guys, and he essentially said the same thing I would have. 1. The beginning of Jesus time with the disciples, or 2. His time at the beginning of creation.

Luke 4:13-21 KJV And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. (14) And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. (15) And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. (16) And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. (17) And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, (18) The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, (19) To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. (20) And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. (21) And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

This was the beginning of the three years.

Are there other possibilities?

John 1:1 KJV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 John 1:10-12 KJV He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. (11) He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (12) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

So here we have a beginning, one that takes us to the first moments in time, one that clearly shows us Jesus as an integral aspect of creation.

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible attempts to define this for us.  “That which was – Here means, He which was the Word himself; afterwards it means, that which they had heard from him. Which was – Namely, with the Father, 1John_1:2, before he was manifested. From the beginning – This phrase is sometimes used in a limited sense; but here it properly means from eternity, being equivalent with, “in the beginning,” John_1:1.”

So we have another voice that takes the beginning, that John refers to, all the way back to creation. This makes so much more sense to me as it is easy to comprehend the understanding that John, and every other disciple came to develop, and that was that He was God.

Consider how, so many years after Jesus has been gone, John writes with such majesty and clarity how that Jesus was God.

John 1:1-14 KJV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) The same was in the beginning with God. (3) All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (4) In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (5) And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (6) There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. (7) The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. (8) He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. (9) That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (10) He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. (11) He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (12) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (13) Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (14) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

The next aspect of 1 John 1:1 centers on foundational aspects of our faith.

These are the things that give us strength when the world goes dark and lonely. These foundational aspects are the things on which we anchor our hope of a future with Him.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

What is it that we struggle with, belief? We are challenged daily as to how we can believe something that, as the world claims, has no evidence, or that the evidence is so weak that we are fools to believe it.

John is determined to display that evidence before us.

We heard him, – Who heard him? The disciples and many others; they not only heard with their ears but with their hearts as well, and in time came to understand.

We have seen with our eyes, – Strong’s concordance opens this simplistic line up for us with: to stare at (compare G3700), that is, (by implication) to discern clearly (physically or mentally); by extension to attend to; by Hebraism to experience;

“We looked upon him,” – A prolonged form of a primary verb; to look closely at, to study.

Our hands touched him (repeatedly) – We talked about this extensively when we covered John chapter 20. While the other gospel writers might have given us so much more in terms of fine details John came right to the point, after all they went through, struggling through the shock and the perceived loss, they came to understand that He had done exactly what he described, and followed the pattern that scripture laid out for us to understand. He was and still is God, He is alive, and His authenticity gives us a solid hope for a future with the Father.

John stated, “We, not only heard the words of life, but we came to realize that He was the Word of life there before us.”

Try to imagine for a moment what it would have been like to walk daily with the King of the Universe. I want so badly to know that feeling, of perfect peace and contentment as I live in an open communion with him.

While the other gospel writers might have given us so much more in terms of fine details John came right to the point; after all they went through, struggling through the shock and the perceived loss, they came to understand that He had done exactly what he described, and followed the pattern that scripture laid out for us to understand.

He was and still is God, He is alive, and His authenticity gives us a solid hope for a future with the Father.

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Saturday morning journal, or “you are not moving my stuff”


Last night I sent another response to my brother-in-law. He had written me several weeks ago and asked me five, rather in-depth questions.

I was trying to respond to his question with the significant changes or impacts I had experienced because of Celebrate Recovery over the last year. I think I gave him several distinct things I can see but I know that there are more. The problem is that what seems so clear one moment is faded weeks later when I try to recall it. I need to carry my journal with me and write this stuff down.

As I opened my copy of “Wild At Heart” by John Eldredge this morning I get this: “That is the way we are with our wound, especially men. We bury it deep and never take it out again. But take it out we must, or better, enter into it.”

It was about this time last year that the Boot Camp experience began for me. God had warned me before hand that he was going to open a large wound in me. Standing in line for lunch I looked back at the table where I had placed my belongings. I had chosen this seat so that I could spend a few moments with the guy that had worked so hard to get me here. That is when I see my stuff getting moved to another spot by none other than one of our pastors that had gone. He is a big man, a football coach, and he used to repossess cars to make money while he was in college. At that moment I could care less who he was, because you are not more important than me, and you are not moving my stuff to convenience yourself. This idea that I am worthy of importance is so foreign to me, and in total opposition to the way I was raised, for mom made sure that I understood that everyone is more important than me.

It is easy to defer to someone and typically falls under mere human decency, but when you have lived with a prisoners mentality all your life, a life in which you rarely saw anyone show you respect, you come to a point at which you will snap, and you may react with an in-human rage. That was me at that moment.

I refuse to recount all the things that went through my mind as I stood in line that day. I had been bullied all my life, and at some point I determined no more. The Spirit of the Lord started speaking  to me immediately and said, “I warned you that I was going to open a wound in you, and you are not going to do any of those things you just thought. Now go and quietly sit down where he moved your stuff. I will take care of him.” I did.

Something I think I need to clarify. As I looked back at my belongings being moved, my friend looked at me and then spoke to the pastor. The pastor in turn looked back at me too, and made one of his sarcastic faces that told me tough nuts pal, you got moved.

Just moments after sitting the pastor begins to say something to me. I think he got three words out when I said, Don’t you say a word to me! He stopped immediately, but continued his conversation with my friend. Soon he was gone. Almost immediately my friend walked around the table to me and said, he did not know it was your stuff. To which I angrily replied, I would not have moved your stuff, and he too walked away.

Bullied all my life I had learned to put up a huge defense system to prevent incidents like this from happening anymore. Much of my defense system entailed keeping unsafe people at a distance. I sometimes wonder how God was able to get past all that. If I had not intentionally begun, years before, to find out what the character of God was really like he may not have. My efforts to understand his demonstrated to me that He was jealous over me, and would have sent his only Son just to die for me that day. God reaffirmed to me that day that he wanted me healed, and when I calmed down, he told me what to say to the pastor. I had to tell this pastor that I loved him and affirm him, to his face, that he was my leader.

I shed a lot of tears that weekend, and still do as God reveals to me more of the areas of wounding. A thought comes to me as I write. I have been watching Saving Private Ryan, a very emotional movie for me. At one point, Wade, the medic, takes a deadly bullet wound through his lung. Clearly in pain and bleeding to death he asks the Captain, “are there any wounds that are bleeding more than the others?”  I have been wounded so many times; perhaps God went after the one that may have been bleeding more than the others.

I sit in various groups and every one of them is filled with men that have been wounded in so many ways. There is only one hope for any of them, and it is in their submitting their lives to Jesus Christ. In Celebrate Recovery we make it very clear from the start that there is only one higher power, and his name is Jesus Christ. We don’t exclude anyone, but you can tell who the followers of Christ are, for as they stand before you, introducing themselves, they will most likely say, Hi, my name is …… I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, and I am celebrating recovery over ……… .

It is so easy to join the family of God and come into restoration. Start by telling God that you are powerless to fix this yourself, and that you would like for Jesus, the Son of God, to come into your life and take it over. He will and the healing with begin.

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I can understand Thomas. Part 5 of 5


This section on Thomas seems like it could stand alone, we often get sermons that do just that, and yet it is deeply intertwined on the basis of belief, doubt, and mercy. Thomas, it seems, is unfairly singled out, for he believed no more or less than the others. No doubt, Thomas was very open with his thoughts, that does not necessarily make you a dissenter. Historically we know that Thomas died a martyr in the service of Christ, proving his loyalty to the master.

In John’s gospel, chapter 11, verses 1-54, despite imminent danger at the hands of hostile Jews, Jesus declared His intention of going to Bethany to heal Lazarus,….

John 11:8 NASB The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?”

Thomas alone opposed the other disciples who sought to dissuade Him, and protested,

John 11:16 NASB Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”

I can understand Thomas; I relate to him easily. He sees things in black and white, this is the kind of reaction you get from someone who has experienced grief and pain. I know, I have been there.

John 20:24 NASB But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

I made an assumption once again. I assumed that Thomas was with them in the house. Every flannel graph I ever saw as I was growing up in church school, showed Thomas there with them. Truth is we do not know where Thomas was; perhaps he was with his own family. He does not come back into the picture for eight days.

John 20:25 NASB So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Thomas had not gone to the tomb; he did not hear Mary’s testimony of how Jesus appeared to her; he was not there when Jesus appeared in the closed room with them, and showed them the wounds in his wrists and feet.

John left off the part where none of them believed upon seeing the wounds, wounds that the people in that room knew would have been there, and they failed to mention that when Jesus spoke to them about all the things written about Him in scripture, things He had previously told them about Himself, still did not convince them. It was only after he asked for and ate some broiled fish that their eyes were open and they believed.

There is that word again, believe.

How many times now, in this twentieth chapter have we seen this concept?

What did they believe this time?

John 20:26 NASB After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

Eight days after the first appearance of Jesus He appears again.

Again there is a significance and I missed it. Truthfully I am not getting it fully but here is what I am picking up on. While the death of Jesus put them into a depression, and sent everyone back to whatever they had known so that they could continue living. The disciples still had one common bond, and that was to meet together on the first day, Sunday. In that house, a place they have been so many times, they ate together, talked about what they saw and heard Jesus say that day; they talked about what was to become our life in Christ, and they bonded with each other. Do we see that directly by our casual glances at God’s word? NO! We have to pay attention to details.

Apparently life was permitted to get in the way at times and that may be what we saw with Thomas. Jesus death was certainly a life event and none of us knows how deeply it affected Thomas.

(If you read this, thinking it’s farcical conjecture, then I ask you to think about almost every event that centers on Jesus as you read the gospels. Where were they when these things took place? Jerusalem, near or in the temple or synagogues, or in the court-yard that women and gentiles had access to. The Sabbath is over and they are allowed to travel beyond the distance limit that Jewish law prescribed. And the fact that Sabbath ended at sunset making it the perfect time to recap a days events. This kind of thought opens all kinds of doors for speculation about how they lived their lives. They may have fished throughout the week and made the migration into Jerusalem before Sabbath began, making base camp at “the house”. Can you imagine what it would be like to spend even 24 hours in the presence of Jesus one day a week. I want so badly to say my life would be changed, but then the thought occurs to me, He lives in me!)

John MacArthur’s commentary says this about Thomas, and I agree with his conclusion. “Thomas has already been portrayed as loyal, but pessimistic. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his failure, but instead compassionately offered him proof of His resurrection. Jesus lovingly met him at the point of his weakness (2Timothy_2:13). Thomas’ actions indicated that Jesus had to convince the disciples rather forcefully of His resurrection, i.e., they were not gullible people predisposed to believing in resurrection. The point is they would not have fabricated it or hallucinated it, since they were so reluctant to believe, even with the evidence they could see.”

I am always battling past the voices in my head that try to tell me, “You have said enough already. No one needs to hear your rambling on anymore!” I could not tell you distinctly what a demon voice sounds like. (Well, there was that once when I was a child and I heard this distorted voice come out of a beautiful woman that the “men” of the church were praying over in an attempt to release her from demon possession. She sounded like some of those creepy voices they make up in the movies; you know the ones that make you lose sleep for weeks, as she said with a cackle, I know who you are.) Most of the time they are familiar voices; the same ones that sound like an old supervisor, your dad, your mom, an ex-wife; probably the same ones that told you cannot do it, make it, or succeed.) See, you are not so different from me. And we, are not so different from the disciples.

The next two passages really need no great discussion, for we have seen this, almost word for word when Jesus appeared in the closed room eight days earlier.

John 20:27-28 NASB Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” (28) Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

I will give Thomas this. At this gesture he believed. The rest of them had to sit through a foundational study given Jesus himself, and still could not believe. It was not until Jesus proved he was not a ghost by eating some fish, that they believed. Thomas bypassed two steps in his ascent to faith.

Perhaps we make the assumption that Thomas’ statement was literal, and that he shoved his hands into the hole in Jesus side. Just the thought of that is disgusting. You ought to understand by now that Thomas was “Mr. Brash Statement” guy himself. Jesus, disgusted by the disciples lack of understanding, told the guys they were going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Thomas responds to all this with, “let’s go to Jerusalem and die with him.” Everyone understood what he meant, and the possibilities were real. If that was to be their fate that day, it would have happened. But do you think Jesus was going to allow anything outside of the Father’s will to happen?

John 20:29 NASB Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

I do not know if it is the emphasis that a preacher puts on this passage, but I cannot remember a time that it ever came across as a positive for Thomas.

Think about what John has shown us by word pictures. Jesus showed up in a closed room. Gives a common greeting of peace, and begins multiple attempts at proofs necessary for bringing them back to a foundation of belief. With Thomas, Jesus does the same thing, but does not have to go through every step, and Thomas believes. The other disciples, and those with them, DID NOT BELIEVE, and took so much more convincing.

(It may have been necessary, because the believer that has poured over scripture has seen that this foundation is rehashed many times in scripture, and is foundational to our belief as well. This may have been purposefully done this way as a way of establishing these concepts in them. I am glad they did.)

So, who believe without seeing could be directed at us. We only have the words on a page, and images those words build within us. Not seeing this Jesus, but trusting His words, I believe.

Perhaps it all boils down to this:

John 20:31 MSG These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.

If there was a person that could sell this to us, it would be John.

He had to work through all the unbelief and doubt,

He had to conquer his anger and rage,

He had to learn what love really was.

When you think about all the years of mellowing that God put him through, initiating him into manhood, it is easier to see more clearly what happened this day, as John did.

 

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It is so easy to do, create a formula for success. Part 4 of ?


Having once again blessed them with a declaration of peace and telling them, “I also send you” he gives them the greatest gift of all, the Holy Spirit.

John 20:22 NASB And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

The best thing I can do to explain or define what the power of the Holy Spirit can do in a person is to show you how it exuded from Peter. You are going to have to read it, for it is effectively the entire second chapter of Acts. The result of Peter’s oration, in direct response to the leading of the Holy Spirit, was that about three thousand souls got saved that day.

He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

It so easy to do, create a formula for success. The chief priests and scribes had done just that, and added reams of laws that not even they could keep. Perhaps Jesus in his own way had tried to show that creativity is not inappropriate, for he made mud from spit and had the man wash in the pool of Siloam, knowing full well that he was breaking Jewish law by doing it. He went against the grain of society and cleanliness laws just by speaking with the woman with the issue of blood; this was wrong on so many levels. And he spit in another mans eyes to bring about a healing. Good lord, he even ate with sinners.

He breathed on them this evening and said, .. Receive the Holy Spirit.

Is there any doubt what happened to them?

But do we see the dramatic results that we see in the second chapter of Acts? No. Don’t get discouraged. Jesus never said a prayer that did not get answered. He was God of course, but dependent upon the instructions of the Father by choice.

What happens next is mind-boggling, and would be completely unrelated if he had not said, “..as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

John 20:23 NASB “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

“If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them;”

Had they heard something comparable to this before?

Matthew recorded this: Matthew 16:19 NASB “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

We see another example in: Matthew 18:18 NASB “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

Ask yourself, why did Jesus go to the cross?

This of course has a multifaceted answer, but one of the answers that stands out was to, like the scapegoat, take all the sins, once, for all time, of the world.

Jesus Christ took them already, that makes John MacArthur’s assertion much more valid.

This does not give authority to Christians to forgive sins. Jesus was saying that the believer can boldly declare the certainty of a sinner’s forgiveness by the Father because of the work of His Son …”

There is more to this quote but I cannot agree with it.

But that is only half the sentence. It continues with: ..if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

The book of Acts makes a statement that brings clarity to this.

Acts 13:38-39 NASB “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, (39) and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.

Forgiven and freed because Jesus put himself on the cross. As a stand alone statement this idea of retaining someone’s sin is muddy water indeed.

Jesus gave them the privilege of telling new believers that their sins have been forgiven because they have accepted Jesus’ message” (Life Application Study Bible)

Robertson’s Word Pictures states, The power to forgive sin belongs only to God, but Jesus claimed to have this power and right (Mar_2:5-7).

Mark 2:5-7 NASB And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (6) But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, (7) “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?

We can take one of two approaches to this.

  1. Only God has the power to forgive and He did this already. That being said and/or established then we have to decide what Jesus was trying to say. We may need to also ask, what was John trying to tell us as he conveyed what he saw and heard that evening for it implies that we have authority to proclaim forgiveness over people. (Really, that seems ridiculous considering the bloody sacrifice Christ made of Himself to gain our freedom.)

  2. If we are going to believe that God gave the power of forgiveness to us, then what is our responsibility and reasonable method of approaching this?

Obviously Jesus took all sin on the cross.

I know of no better way of making this next idea clear other than to tell what I can remember of an old ranchers philosophy. Cattle tend not to be very smart and run themselves into fences many times over to get feed and water. Instead of consistently damaging the cattle you put them in an environment that has a fresh water supply and they will stay within close proximity.

So if I equate us to cattle and Jesus the water (He is!), then, in theory, we would not wander far from the water supply, and in reality no one would have to worry about us. But that never happens, and we get bombarded with sermons on sin. It is something that we have to deal with constantly.

Perhaps the problem lies in how we approach the inconsistencies of life (things we call sin). If Jesus took away the penalty for sin His actions apply primarily to those who accept the fact that He did this. Those who choose to stay outside of belief will not be judged for the sin, that is gone (the penalty/bondage was taken by Jesus voluntary actions), but they will be judged for not accepting the one who took the sin upon himself.

I cannot refute God’s word, and it says we are all sinners still.

… the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (8) If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:7-10 NASB

Our sins may not be so overt, like murder, or manufacturing drugs, but may be what we think of  as little indiscretions.

I will tell one that recently challenged me. I attend several groups. One of them was a book study. In there we would read, stop after a period and attempt to discuss what we read. Often, after a painful silence (I refrain from speaking at times because I feel like I talk all the time,) I will bring up something that touches me deeply. After I expressed myself, keeping this personal to me, I was attacked verbally by one of the guys. I am not just being overly sensitive about this as a friend of mine picked up on the attack and verbally went after this guy. (I sometimes have to choose to not retaliate, because I can easily swing over into a rage, and I am not really that skillful at impromptu apologetics.) I left that group over the negativity and the personal need to return to John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart.I deemed that man unsafe and judged him unfairly. As I sat in a recent recovery meeting, where this young man gave his testimony, God spoke to me and said, “you judged him unfairly.” and he reminded me of what I had said in my heart. If I am going to be honest, this is sin.

What is sin? Missing the mark! As a former archery competitor I can tell you that from 80 yards out the “mark” seems to be about an inch wide. The overall size of the entire target is about 3 foot wide. My goal is to hit the three-inch spot in the middle. It is very easy to miss the center, but you have to go out of your way to miss the 3 foot wide target. If I hit the target while trying to hit the center, at least I am trying.

My judgment of this young man, meant that I was not even trying. When God spoke to me about what I had done I knew immediately that I had to take care of this. Moments later I went to my small group meeting and when it was my turn to speak I told them about what God had said to me. A week later I was able to get access to this young man and addressed my bad attitude toward him. He thanked me for that. I believe that this is what we are supposed to do.

Eventually Peter would write: 1 Peter 2:24 NASB and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Jesus knew that Peter described had happened, but did they?

If they could have recalled what Isaiah had prophesied perhaps then his statement, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” would make more sense. (By reading, not only John’s gospel but Luke’s as well, I was able to understand that He had walked them through the scriptures that spoke of Him.)

Isaiah 53:4-6 NASB Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. (5) But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. (6) All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

I opened with “It is so easy to do, create a formula for success”. Is there a formula that we could use here? Maybe. If I start with a relationship with Christ as a basis, then start making efforts to hit the target, preferably the bulls-eye. If you miss, then pay attention to the voice of the Lord and He will tell you how to correct it. You don’t have to focus on SIN; focus on the giver of life, focus on hearing His voice, focus on Jesus Christ – the one that took your sins, and gave you his life.

If you are mess then it is time for you to get honest and get yourself into Recovery. Look, this is not about alcoholism, it is about your inability to fix yourself, something that you have tried for years, with no success. At what point do you admit that you are powerless and need accountability partners and people who are willing to walk through recovery with you.


 

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The day started early.


John 20:19 -31; Luke 24 – Part 1

Once again I emphasized my belief that John was writing to Jewish believers. I say this because here he is making the point that it was still the first day. To the Jewish mind there is an instant understanding when John says this. The hearer or reader understood immediately that it is still light, for sunset marks the beginning of a new day.

Although John does not expound on it, there were many that made it to the tomb that day.

Told by the angel to go and tell the disciples, at least, Mary Magdalene did what the angel asked of her, for she found John and Peter.

Jerusalem, even then, was a large city. How was she supposed to find them all, just start running about the city shouting their names? Considering the fear that is expressed by their “shutting” the door I don’t think so, for that would have drawn even more unwanted attention.

Jesus seemed to make a point of personally addressing the two on the road to Emmaus. (They were headed North West out of Jerusalem. What does that imply?)

Consider that after Jesus finally breaks bread with them, they too believed, to some degree, for they changed course and returned to Jerusalem, to the house where they knew they would find the others. For whatever the reasons they felt comfortable enough to have used a particular home; all of them. A relative of one, or a friend of the “ministry.”

John 20:19 NASB So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.”

So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week”

As the day has progressed we find them gathering together, but not all.

It’s probably a little more than cool this time of the day. It would only make sense to close the doors and put out some candles. It is John telling us that the doors were shut for fear of the Jews.

and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews”

The doors might be closed anyway, but fear has driven them to secure the doors so that no one walks in uninvited.

Fearing the Jews?

You might think that the Jews had appeased their anger; apparently not. Remember that the chief priests had worked themselves into a frenzy and the only thing that diffused that momentum was their wish to prepare for their religious practices. What ever evil they had been performing had to come to a quick end before the Sabbath which began at sundown.

They have had three days to calm down, but John understood their ways and their anger; he has watched it for at least three years. This meant something very significant to his Jewish audience.

John, looking back 90 years later, stated that when he looked at the grave-clothes and their placement, he believed. What did he believe?

The two on the road to Emmaus believed enough to turn around and return to the house in Jerusalem. What did they believe?

The door is secured. It was so crowded that John intentionally sits with his back against the door. No one is getting past him without damaging something (we did not call him one of the sons of thunder for nothing.) Only moments before securing the door someone did a head count and assured us that everyone was here. If they noticed that Thomas was missing they did not seem overly concerned. Mary had gone out of her way to round the disciples up (at least that is what we choose to believe), but Thomas was nowhere to be found. He must have gone home. Rather outspoken and belligerent at times, Thomas, just like the others, is aware that Jesus has died; what then is the sense of hashing this out anymore?

Jesus appeared to the two that were headed north-west and began talking with them. He explained who he was beginning with Moses (that covers a lot of territory) and the prophets (This was a long walk). The things he said are what we should understand as established believers, and are the foundations of our faith. Jesus, after what seems like some prodding from them, sits down to dinner with them. As he began to eat, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him and believed. They had to turn around and get back to Jerusalem with enough time to gather “all” the disciples. They were excited and they believed. What did they believe?

Luke 24:33 NASB states,

And they (the two from the Emmaus road) got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them,

We are not clear on who the “those who were with them” were. We can sort this out, but we have to look at Luke’s and Mark’s account to fill in the blanks.

  • Mary Magdalene

  • Mary the mother of James

  • Salome

  • Joanna

  • There may have been others.

Feeling relatively safe, now that the door is secured, they began discussing the days events.

Can you imagine the emotions, the feelings. It made sense as John described how the grave-clothes were laid. No one stealing a body would have gone to all that trouble. And what about the head cloth; lying by itself as if purposefully taken off. One stated with a pained voice, I saw his face. Why would anyone need to see how torn up he was again? The point of the discussion was if he was really alive. Sitting, standing, leaning against the wall, they were all hashing out what it all meant.

Maybe he was alive?

Don’t you remember what he said to us, how that he would rise again on the third day? You might think it was finally sinking in. The events of the day had all been very real. The witness of the two disciples on Emmaus road, realizing that it was Jesus, and they said he just disappeared after supper was over. Mary saw him there at the tomb earlier that day; he called her name, and she touched him.

Much like the death of a loved one, the reality may take days to sink in, and then once it does what do you do next? Having gone through such a horrid shock they are now challenged to believe that he is alive.

How do you dispute evidence; it is difficult at best, but it is so much easier to disqualify the eyewitnesses. This may be one of the reasons that John points out Mary Magdalene. Having read scripture you should have come to realize that Jesus, in the semi-barbaric world of the middle east, was the one person that showed women respect.

Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her. I do not think that there were too many people who were not aware of how those things manifested themselves. Of the women that traveled with the company she is the prominent example of the power of God’s transformation and love in the life of a human.

Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Forget what he looked like, how did he get in here? We assume so many things about this, and we cannot prove any of them. The word histemi indicates that he was suddenly standing there in the midst of them.

Although they, as a group, had not been trying to draw the attention of the chief priests, one of the ladies screamed when she saw him. Several in the room jumped to their feet as though they were on the defensive and several charged for the door. You would have thought a bomb had gone off.

Suddenly it all became silent when the voice that we had come know as Jesus said, Shalom Aleichem!” (Peace to you!) It all made sense!

Luke’s gospel gives us some clarity that we do not see in John’s account. Keep in mind that Luke was a physician and details were important to him.

Luke 24:36-40 NASB While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be to you.” (37) But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. (38) And He said to them, Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? (39) “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.” (40) And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.

John told us that he believed, but I ask you again, what did John believe? Fully, completely? I don’t think so.

Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”

Because we don’t see things like this, a formerly dead man appearing in the living room, every day. It is hard to put into words, but some even tried to answer him, but you could not understand them. No one would go near him for people do not just appear in the middle of room. Mary, and the two that had seen him on the road, started to approach him for she had already seen him this day.

What were the doubts? Many.

I told you I would rise again! It seemed like an eternity but in truth it was only a few seconds later when Jesus, with just a hint of sarcasm, spoke again.

Look at my hands; look at my feet–it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.” Luke 24:39 MSG

It was the same tone he used in response to Nathanael when he said, John 1:51 GW “I can guarantee this truth: You will see the sky open and God’s angels going up and coming down to the Son of Man.”

We recognized the voice and the manner of speaking, but none of us had ever seen anyone just appear in the middle of a secured room. No one moved toward him as yet.

Perhaps you, like John believe; the question is, what do you believe? We all struggle with belief. One of the things that recently challenged me was the passages about having faith like a grain of mustard seed.

Luke 17:5-6 NASB  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”  (6)  And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.

Having had a mustard seed between my fingers, I pinched them together and you can see no light between them; that is small, and are you telling me that I don’t even have that?  If that is what it is all about, my lack, or their lack of faith, then we have no hope. But we do have hope and it is in the grace and mercy of the Father, and that Jesus Christ himself stands as our mediator. He does this because we are broken and weak without Him. As a participant in Celebrate Recovery I am consistently saying, I am a grateful believer. I now know why, because in my worst moments he is always faithful and I live in him. Give him your life, allow Him to give you life and heal you.

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The letter I wish I had received.


One of the things I am doing to better myself and find a place of normalcy inside my head, is to be involved in a book study with some of the guys from church. There are only three of us in this group, and I know both of them well enough but we are getting to know each other better with each meeting. As you might imagine a small group allows for relationship building, the whole idea. The book we are reading, again, is, Wild At Heart, by John Eldredge.

Cover of "Wild at Heart: Discovering the ...

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I have been through two “boot camps” based upon this book and participated in a book study with this book before, but this time I think I am getting it. What changed? Me! And our leader said, “We all have the field manual that goes along with this book, so let’s answer those questions and come back each week prepared to talk about what we wrote.” Now consider that I have already been in a recovery group for nine months at this point. And I, with a little prompting, decided to answer the recovery questions that our manuals ask us with all the honesty I could muster. As you can imagine that was at first very difficult because you have to battle through a slew of emotions, especially when you have no self esteem, and you trust no one.

Recently, I had scrambled to get the questions answered for chapter four of the manual but could not get them all. Wouldn’t you know it, the last thing he asked as he skipped around some of the questions was the last one. I had not made it that far and had not even looked at it. Just looking at the question made my heart sink. With the premise that dad is now dead and going through his effects, you find this letter addressed to you. The question started off with, “What would you have loved to hear from your father? … what would you long for it to say? Is there an apology? An affirmation? Then Eldredge asked us to write that letter. I could hardly speak. I could not do the question justice by improvising at that moment.

I took some time, finished the other questions, sat myself in the backyard and wrote that letter, sobbing most of the way through it. It seemed that as I wrote about various aspects of my youth, the very things that created this person I became, seemed to drain away. I cannot remember anything so freeing.

I have had to do some difficult things in recovery such as: writing and reading amends letters to people that I needed to say sorry too. This is especially hard when these same people created such havoc in me. But amends is not about the pain, nor how they react to my amends; it has everything to do with my healing and relationship with God.

One of those letters was to me, forgiving myself. I wrote it and read it to my sponsor, hoping that I would obtain a great release from the anguish I felt, but I felt very little. My sponsor suggested strongly that I go to the park, find a quiet place there, read it to God like a prayer, and then burn it. The silly thing resisted burning. Thinking back on my persistence at getting that paper to burn, perhaps there is a slow, gradual healing from it and I do not see it yet, and the idea that this paper resisted burning could be symbolic in many ways; one being the enemies resistance to release us from his grip.

Writing this letter from dad to myself was very emotional, and I think healing in many ways. I was so excited about what this started in me that I have been telling anyone that will listen what I did. Finally I am sensing some relief from the pains inside.

So, with that I am going to share this letter with you.

The Letter I wish I had received.

Dear Oz,

I failed you and I am so sorry.

When you were young I failed to understand or care about why you were struggling in school. I wish I had pursued every avenue on your behalf. I had no idea how great the humiliation was going to be for you and how that would have effected you. I have been reading your writings since you began, and I see that you would have been great for you do have a good mind and you could have done anything you wanted in life.

I am so sorry that I did not show you respect by not listening to what you had to say. Instead I believed the lies your brother told me and beat you for it. If only I had listened to you; you were trying to tell me so many things, and I refused to listen.

I failed you as a father by not coming to your aid when that thug slugged you in the face, and I humiliated you by locking you in the car with all my friends looking on. You were only a child and deserved my protection. Son, please, I beg of you to forgive me for that.

Son, please forgive me for stepping aside as mom mentally emasculated you. I deeply regret not encouraging you to defend yourself, not only with your hands but with your words also. I can see how the damage carried carried all the way into manhood. I now know that if I had been the father you needed you would not have lived in fear all your life, and no one deserves that; especially a fear of me. I would have worked with you as you learned to stand your ground. I did not know how to do this well either

, so we both would have learned.

Son, I would have had those talks with you about sexuality. Again, we both needed to learn something, but the biggest area effecting both of us, would have been the lesson on boundaries and how not to cross them. I am so sorry for I crossed yours all the time.

Given the chance to do it over we could have practiced communication skills; I by listening to you. Again, please forgive me. If I had known I would have done things so differently.

Son, it is never to late to say I love you, and I do. A lesson that I have learned to late, is that a real man is not ashamed to show his love to his son, especially his first born.

I love you

Dad.

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It is hard to imagine the despair.


Having gone to the tomb and finding it empty the ladies are confronted by an angel who tells them to go and tell the disciples, but John did not tell us that. We need to look at Mark’s gospel which would have been conveyed to him by Peter. Peter had not been there, so how did Peter know all this? Mary (We cannot exclude that the others were there with her.)

What is the report? The tomb is empty; Jesus is gone, and someone who just appeared out of nowhere told us to go tell the disciples.

Do John and Peter analyze all this information, comparing it with the comments that Jesus had made and make some decisive conclusions that motive them to investigate for themselves because they need foundational information for their next sermons?

Get real! What you hear barely registers – you are still in shock. The man that loved you like no one else ever had, and while you stayed by his side he took care of every need you had has died and was buried in that tomb, and now he is gone. You don’t even have a plan; you merely respond and run to the scene.

John 20:3 Moffatt NT So Peter and the other disciple set out for the tomb;

 Even though Mark conveys that the ladies ran trembling from the tomb, that does not mean that they, at least Mary Magdalene, did not do what the angel told her. We do not see the angels demanding a hasty conveyance of the message, but the implications are there. Merely to be a character enveloped in the moment would imply that you would run with all haste. 

 Where did Mary find Peter and John? That is not given to us, but can be assumed. You probably do not just rent out a room for your Passover meal, so this had to be a relative of one of the men and we can assume, to some degree, a disciple. 

 In time Jesus will tell the followers, all 120 of them, to wait in the upper room. This may have been the same room that they had the passover in, and may well be where they found Peter and John. Distraught, you either run to seclusion or to a familiar place. Having been told Mary ran to the familiar place and found Peter and John there. 

 As we have worked through John’s gospel it is hard to imagine the despair they felt as Jesus told them that he, the best thing that ever happened to them, was to be brutally murdered (a voluntary act on his part) and taken from them. 

 I do not think we can accurately imagine how they felt, or what they thought as they heard these words – the tomb is empty, and an angel said, he is not here. Looking at a picture recently coming out of Syria, I see a small boy, approximately 2-3 years old, standing in front of an older man sitting on the ground. They both seem to be in the street. What the boy is looking at we do not know, but he is crying in anguish because horrible people have wantonly slaughtered his mother because she is of a differing religion. Anguish, despair, loss of direction, no sense of purpose, and no idea of what is to happen next. Maybe that is what they felt.

 John 20:4 NASB ” The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first;…”

 I have heard deeply spiritual sermons that seemed to focus on Peter coming second. We know that Peter was very disappointed by his own actions and you might think that it showed in his lack of enthusiasm in running. Get over it; he ran; John just ran faster.

 What were they hoping to see? Perhaps nothing; perhaps they just needed to verify that the tomb, which bordered upon impossible to get into, was empty. Why do we crane our necks, some even stopping to look at the horrid car crash, as they traverse the freeway? What are you hoping to see? Why should these men be so different, except that Jesus was like family with one exception; he gave them hope.

 Empty! What does that imply? Back to it’s original state. If grave robbers had come they would not have taken the time to leave grave cloths. 

 We have a clear indication of what they might have expected.

Matthew 16:21-22 NASB From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. (22) Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”

Peter even challenged Jesus about it, but this only added to Peter’s disillusionment, and John tells us none of them believed. 

 If you read the 20th chapter of John you will see that John indicates that after having seen the clothes lying as they were he believed. Belief has such varied depths of understanding to it. I personally know people who have a belief in Jesus, but we are cautioned to look at the fruit that comes off the tree as an indicator. (Don’t judge one bad apple coming off a tree that may be filled with good apples, as an indicator of the health of the tree. Occasionally the tree can become infested. Should you be a horticulturist then you would know to be observant, take action, and stop the infestation that could destroy not only the fruit but the entire tree. Your fast actions can help to maintain that tree for its lifetime. You should also understand that a well maintained tree has its own natural defense system and often includes the nutrient flow. In a pine tree you would call this sap, and in a well watered tree the sap flow is strong enough to inundate the boring beetle or push it back out. Locally, we lost a large quantity of forest due to drought and beetle populations that went out of control. Ordinarily the trees themselves would have been their own defense but rain had been sparse.)

 Have you ever heard the sentence, “hindsight is twenty twenty”.  It means, looking back I can see clearly what was going on; at the time I could not. John wrote this almost 90 years after Jesus death, and possibly 40 years after Mark wrote his gospel. 

 You can easily look back and see that when John chose to finally step inside the tomb, and saw the grave clothes, not strewn about hastily but placed in different locations, was the point in time where something changed in him. Suddenly this was becoming real to him. Kind of like my tree story a moment ago there was a point at which God stepped in, did some maintenance work and changed the direction of John’s life.

 Many of you have already looked back. Could you see twenty twenty? Did you see your need for Jesus Christ? All it takes is for you admit that you have messed up and that you need him. Ask him into your life. He will take the burden of your sins off you – He did this on that cross so many years ago. He merely has been waiting for you to accept that he did it for you. The moment you do this a new life begins in him, along with the assurance of a life with the Father in eternity.

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