Wednesday, February 29, 2012

There Is No Gray In Moral Failure

Folks, my first book should be...should be, did I say should be?  Seriously, it should be published and ready for purchase on April 1, 2012.  I'll let you know if it is available before then.

You 2.0

Please click You 2.0 to see the Bible study on You 2.0.  This lesson concentrates on developing your spiritual life as well as self-reflection.  It's a continuation of our study on Becoming the Best Christmas Present You Can Be For Jesus In 2012.

If clicking on You 2.0 doesn't work, go to this link:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

7 Statements From the Cross - Statement 2

Statement 2: "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (see Luke 23:39-43).

Let’s look at both criminals.  The first criminal, as Luke states it, “was hurling abuses at Him, saying, Are You not the Christ (Messiah)?  Save Yourself and us!”  Let’s dissect this for a second.  There are two other people on crosses besides Jesus.  All of them had to be suffering in pain.  We know what Jesus went through but Scripture doesn’t tell us if they had to endure other brutalities before being attached to their crosses.  For instance, the first guy (the criminal) might have been flogged also.  If so, he would be in a lot of pain.  Scripture does not tell us that he had family or friend around him giving him water or offering kind words.  Yet, this criminal had the audacity to make those comments to Christ.  We can look at it in two ways.  First, he didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah.  So, his words are meant to be hurtful and mocking.  Second, he believed in the Messiah and was upset that the “so called King” was in the same predicament that he was in. 
The focus is on Jesus’ statement but I feel if we get a feel of the context, His words will resonate with us much better.  Now lets look at the second criminal.  This person realized and accepted the fact that he deserved his punishment.  He also recognized God in Jesus.  The Scripture does not record this man reciting the so-called “Sinners Prayer.”  Nor does it record him repenting of his sin.  Yet, he was cognizant of the Almighty in his presence.  He simply asked Jesus to remember him in Paradise/heaven.
In looking at the two criminals on the cross, we can almost see a few symbolic features of us carrying our cross
  1. Either you’re holding up your cross and saying good things for and about Christ or you aren’t.  
  • A bit of a stretch in the context of this setting but it’s a good word picture nonetheless
  • I say this tongue-and-cheek but if the man on the right asked to be with Jesus, he might have been on the right hand or in the right. If the guy who mocked Jesus was on the left, he was just left out. 
  1. Our simple but honest requests to the Lord are heard
  2. It’s never too late to come to Jesus
  3. Even sinners who are rightfully punished can still receive Grace.
  4. God still hears from those who are mired in sin. 
  • This is an about face from the popular premise, “God doesn’t hear the prayers of the sinful.”  It also goes against, “God won’t bless you in your mess.”
Let me clarify those two statements.  This is not to say that God doesn’t mind you doing wrong and He wants to bless you.  No, I believe it shows us that God is not boxed into a “You must do this in order to get that.”  Rather, His ways aren’t our ways.  He blessed this man only hours before their death!  This is, in my humble opinion, the first deathbed confession of Christ in the bible.  In other words, it’s never too late to come to Christ.
Note: Jesus said, “today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”  At face value, it indicate that as we close our eyes on this side of Heaven, we open our eyes in Glory/Paradise.
Lastly, let’s look at the cross from Jesus’ perspective.  Luke 22:44 shows Jesus praying the “Blood prayer” (my title only) only hours earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus requested His three closest friends/disciples/Apostles to accompany Him to this spot.  Jesus picked a serene place to be with God.  He asked His companions, (1) the men who labored with Him for three years, (2) the men He had taught for three years, (3) the men He personally chose for His earthly mission, (4) His inner circle, (5) the ones who witnessed the Transfiguration, to simple keep stay awake and keep watch for Him.  They were unable to stay awake and keep watch for Him.  We’ll discuss those reason in a future lesson.  Take a moment and look at His prayer in Luke 22:39-46.  
Now, lets look at the disappointments Jesus endured prior to being crucified.
  • He was betrayed by Judas
  • Falsely arrested
  • Betrayed by His people (Matt 27:20-21, Mark 15:11-14, Luke 23:18-23, John 19:12-15)
  • Scourged (Matt 27:26, Mark 15:15)
  • He was mocked (Matt 27:27-31)
  • He had a crown of thorns put on His head (Matt 27:29)
  • He was spat on (Matt 27:30)
  • He was beaten on the head with a reed (Matt 27:30)
Note: Apparently His beating was so severe, He was unable to carry His cross all the way to Golgotha.  A believer had to help Him.  
A quick time line. All of these things mention above transpired after Jesus and the 12 had eaten dinner. Jesus didn’t go before Pilate until “early in the morning” (Mark 15:1).  Also, cocks crow at around dawn.  At 6:00AM (John 19:14) His people betrayed Him.  The Romans crucified (put Him on the cross) Christ around 9:00 AM (Mark 15:25).  
That’s a lot of things for one person to endure.  Now, go back an reread His statement.
Jesus says, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise".  Jesus was still ministering while He was suffering.  We should note this and remember to help others even when we are “going through.”  
I’m encouraging you to remember your wayward family or friends.  There is still a chance for them to receive Christ.  Don’t give up on them.  Continue to pray for them.  Jesus didn’t stop and nor should we.
Blessings to you

Friday, February 24, 2012

7 Statements From the Cross - Statement 1

The Background: Jesus uttered seven powerful statements while hanging on The Cross.  Each week leading up to Easter, we’ll look at each statement.  We’ll look at them individually and then collectively to see what He was telling us.  We’ll see God's plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. The intent is to learn how we can change our lives to look more like Christ.

It is important to remember that Jesus was (1) beaten, (2) scourged and (3) forced to carry His vessel of torture - the tree or crucifix.  The cross was not some lacquered and beautifully even cut of prime wood. It they were more like scrap wood.  The criminals would get their cross and lug it through the streets to their “death station.” It is equally important to know the Romans made the criminals walk through the market place while carrying their crosses. This provided the onlookers, mostly Jews, with two things.  First, it instilled fear into all who witnessed the event.  The onlookers had no doubt in their mind what it meant to carry a cross. As 21st century Christians, the meaning may be a little lost on us.  However, for those first century listeners and viewers, they knew what Jesus meant.  It meant, “Dead man walking.”  Jesus challenged us to take up our cross. I think it’s important for us as a modern day Western Christian to keep in mind what it means.  For us, we need to bear the cross of Christianity.  We must bear the weight it carries with us.  It means we might not be popular any longer.  It means we should be distinguishable from the world, the casual onlooker who aren’t believers.  That’s our cross.  Second, it showed the Jews and everyone else that no one defied the Roman government.  The iron heel of the Roman Empire was on the neck of the oppressed Israelites.  Little did they know that it was all a part of the plan.  In our contemporary time, we are not oppressed.  However, issues like gay marriages are forcing some of us to forget the cross.  We accommodate, or show tolerance for unGodly things.

Jesus’ sacrifice provided us equal access to the Father.  His death, burial and resurrection provided us with eternal salvation.  We must be reminded to reflect on His sacrifices.  We also must walk the faith.  I can almost picture us walking with our figurative crosses through the street.  The streets are our everyday walk.  Our cross is our Christian lifestyle.  I can see those who want to be with the world (Romans) speaking bad about us.  However, “be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Cor 16:13 NASB).

Take time each week and think on what our Lord has done for us.  As you read the Scripture, put yourself inside the story.  “What were these people thinking? How would I have reacted?”  I also encourage you to reflect on what does the words of this 1st century Jewish teacher, prophet and carpenter (more so a construction worker) mean to me?

I pray your understanding grows exponentially. 
Statement 1: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (see Luke 23:34).
Nails in the foot of a crucified person
Jesus was falsely imprisoned; lied on by His people and the religious institution; mocked by the Roman court, spat on; beaten by the Romans and abandoned by His friends (the Apostles) and disciples.  What would you do in that situation?  You’ve been treated worse than anyone should be treated.  Your closest friends left you.  You’re defenseless.  You’ve been whipped with a tool of death.  Each lash on your back takes pieces of your flesh from your body.  You’re humiliated.  Then you are forced to carry a tree for some distance.  Now your torturers are cast lots to see who will get your garments!
Golgotha and Calvary at the top (March 2011
Ok, you’ve had enough time to think about what you’d do?  Jesus did the opposite of what we would do.  He asked God to forgive them.  Forgive them?  What?  He didn’t ask God to help Him.  He did not ask God to send down a legion of angels.  No, Jesus was saving people from themselves even as He hung from the cross.  He asked for their forgiveness!  Only Jesus, our sinless sacrificial Savior, would do that.   
Look at the cross and the nails in that man’s feet.  This is a picture of what our Lord went through. Well, not exactly since Scriptures says His bones weren’t broken.  The picture is a good illustration nonetheless.  Jesus asked for forgiveness of His torturers.  This week, see who you can forgive.  Or, see who you need forgiveness from.  Perhaps you can speak on forgiveness to someone.