Who’s really in control?

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

John 12:9‭-‬11

“Blind guides! Blind fools! The blood you spilt on you will fall.”(Alas For You, Godspell, by Stephen Schwartz.)

Why is it that our first human reaction to trouble is to strike back, ofttimes harder than we have been hit? The chief priests were already plotting to kill Jesus as opportunity arose. Now they have decided on another murder. And for what reason? Lazarus was going about his new-found life, and surely praising God for being restored to his sisters. But, many people who had seen or heard of the wonderful miracle of Jesus – raising Lazarus from the dead – were believing Jesus to be who He said He was. Namely, the Son of God for whom the Israelites had waited for so very long. And instead of giving thanks to God the Father for sending the promised Messiah, the priests wanted to kill him.

Again, why? Because Jesus coming with the words and in the power of the Father challenged their power and system. He challenged their manmade rules and expectations. Instead, he was calling them to a right relationship with God, as God had originally intended. But that type of relationship would do away with the chief priests’ authority and positions, so they fought back. They chose not to hear the truth, to hear the love that sent Jesus to them. They would rather remain as they were, far from God, far from His love, rather that to give up one iota of their control. In doing so, they also deprived great numbers of the nation of Israel on the love of God as well.

If there is one thing that the circumstances of the last few years has taught me, it is this. If you want to make God laugh, make a plan. If you want to see Him smile, pretend you are the on in control. Gentle readers, we ain’t in control of nothin’! Clinging to our perceived control only deprives us of the great peace and comfort of resting on the One who is in charge of everything – good, bad, indifferent. God is bigger than anything we can imagine, and more loving than we can know, and more powerful than the darkest evil. Let it go!

I am thankful to God that He has given me back my music, and so, when I feel overwhelmed by sadness or loneliness, I can hear truth again in song. Sometimes praise and worship music, but often my Oak Ridge Boys music is popped in. (If you haven’t heard their latest release, 17th Avenue Revival, get it! You wont’ regret.) There will indeed be light!

When the world is dead
As a moonless night
There will be light
And when you see
No hope inside
There will be light
Joy comes with the morning
And outshines the darkest of nights
So hold on till the morning
There will be light
Advertisements

The Higher Road

Oh I’ll take the high road

and you’ll take the low road

and I’ll be in in Scotland afore ye…”

How we walk matters. I have run into two instances of the importance of how we walk lately. The first situation was physical. For some reason, I have always been prone to walking with my eyes mostly looking down. Partly this is due to having very bright, but light blue eyes – the sun glare even on a cloudy day bothers me. It’s why I wear sunglasses even in the winter. Well, a few weeks ago I was walking in an unfamiliar town, and for whatever reason, I thought to myself that I should walk like most people – looking ahead of me instead of down. Yeah. Not smart. I found, or should I say my foot found, a very uneven sidewalk and down I went! Scraped my nose a bit, but landed hard on my left hand. Yikes! Thankfully it is just a sprain, but that will teach me NOT to change how I walk, especially in unfamiliar surroundings.

The second time has been my experience on Twitter. Yes, I opened a Twitter account. No, I don’t know all its ins and outs! But in the few months that I have used Twitter, I have run into many instances of people who neither “walk the walk” nor “talk the talk.” I have personally encountered three followers who were impersonating celebrities (thankfully one of them whom I knew and could ask if it was him), a stalker, and someone whose only reason for tweeting seemed to be to attack anyone who expressed opinions he didn’t like! Wow!

On the other hand, I have seen the way someone handled with patience and grace a follower who was repeatedly making personal attacks on him, a singer/artist who takes great pleasure in posting beautiful photos of God’s world, and some who love to tweet quirky or sweet interactions with their wives or kids! Oh, and of course their is one who celebrates #Caturday! This second group of people are the ones that a pleasure to interact with. Why? Because they walk the talk!

In other words, they profess to be something, and they live that out. The people I follow are generally Christians who, like me, know that what the world says is okay isn’t always what God says is okay. The world says it’s okay to hurl insults and foul language at someone. God says “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
(Proverbs 16:24) The world says it’s okay to lie to get what you want. God tells us “No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.” (Psalms 101:7) God’s standards are different, higher,and designed to give life and abundance to those who follow Him.

It requires constant vigilance on our part to choose to follow Jesus, to walk according to God’s standards. The world will push and pull us trying to get us to take the easy way out, to take the low road. But when we choose to the high road, we know that Jesus has already walked that road, and shows the way. We need to immerse ourselves daily in His road map – the Bible – in order to be able to know the way. We also need to pause before we step out, checking the path we intend to take against God’s path. Most importantly we need to remember we are not alone for Jesus himself promised to send an advocate to guide us in the right way, the Holy Spirit.

So be persistent and consistent and take the high road!

#GoodFriday

The cross. For most of the known world at the time, a symbol of degradation, humiliation, shame, despair. For a few people standing at its base, a place of sorrow and mourning – for a dying son, friend, teacher. For some people from that day to this, a symbol of a debt paid that we could not, cannot pay on our own. It is a place where sin dies and is washed away in a crimson flood. But it is not and never was “The End.”

Instead, the story continues. The next scene is one of hope, life, rejoicing, and freedom. The tomb is empty. Do not look for Him there. For He is risen and lives.

He is risen indeed!

Signs of Wonder

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” Luke 23:44‭-‬47

Every time I read this short passage, I am amazed by the extraordinary things that happened. Let’s look at each one.

First, “the sixth hour.” Jewish hours at that time reckoned from sunrise to sunset, from about 6am to 6 pm. So the sixth hour would have been around noon. Imagine the alarm a sudden darkness at the height of day might have caused. The people in Jerusalem, going to the market, the temple, their daily routine. Suddenly, they are plunged into darkness! What emotions did they feel? Terror, panic, confusion I’m sure. Then on top of that, it lasted for THREE HOURS! And what about the people not in Jerusalem? Those in the city might be aware of the scene at Golgotha and the events leading up to this hour, but the rest of the country would have had no clue. After all, there were no cellphones or internet to disseminate the news.

Next, let’s talk about the curtain of the temple. This was a massive piece of woven fabric. According to some sources, it was probably at least an inch thick. “The size and thickness of the curtain ensured that no one would accidentally fall into the Holy of Holies as the veil was 60 feet long, 30 feet wide, and was about one inch thick and was so massive and heavy that it took 300 priests to manipulate it so there was no way that someone could inadvertently trip and stumble into the Holy of Holies and subsequently die as a result.” If you have ever tried to rip a piece of fabric, you know that it is hard to do this without assistance. And most fabric is not an inch thick! Plus it was 30 feet wide (or high). What human being could get up 30 feet in the air, in the inner room of the temple, and rip an inch-thick piece of cloth from the top to the bottom? Not anyone I know!

Yet another extraordinary event occurred: In Matthew 27, we read “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Dead men walking around?! Can you imagine the confusion, maybe fear, that was felt by those who saw these who were dead wandering around the city? For myself, I probably would have been frozen in place,especially if I saw someone I had loved and who had died. Remember, Jesus had not risen from the grave – that is three days away – he had only died. Yet His power over death was such that the dead were raised back to life.

Lastly, the centurion. A Roman centurion was “A centurion was a professional officer of the Roman army after the Marian reforms of 107 BC. Most centurions commanded groups of centuries of around 100 legionaries, but senior centurions commanded cohorts or took senior staff roles in their legion. Centurions were also found in the Roman navy. Wikipedia” They were professional, experienced and valiant. (Ancient History Encyclopedia) They were responsible for overseeing such executions as this one. Battle-hardened men. But now this man, this professional soldier, is moved beyond his own experience, and praises God. He even declares that this man he just executed is the Son of God. Not what you would expect from a pagan warrior!

But what does this all mean for us? First, they should make us stop and think. These are not naturally occurring incidents. Heavy tapestries do not rip by from the top by themselves. The sun does not darken for three hours by itself. Dead people do not come to life by themselves. Unbelieving, war-hardened men do not call someone God by themselves. By themselves. That is the key phrase here. No, they don’t happen on their own, BUT they happened in response to something. You see, even nature knows the identity of the one who died: “…I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:40 ESV) The dead do not come to life on their own, but the power of Jesus can raise them. After all, He called Lazarus, the widow’s son, and Jairus’ daughter back to life. And, since the temple curtain was a symbol of the separation between sinful men and a holy God, only God could remove that barrier, and opening the way for us to come to God, THROUGH Jesus’ death on the cross.

So ultimately, from each one of us, a response is required. We need to consider these things, and ask ourselves how we will choose to view these events. Do we choose to ignore or dismiss them? We are free to do so, but then we choose to lose the gift that Jesus will offer three days hence – eternal life. Or do we, like the centurion, stand in awe of the power, mercy, and grace of God, and say “Surely, this is the Son of God.”

The tomb is empty!