He Walks Through Walls

36″While Jesus’ disciples were talking about what had happened, Jesus appeared and greeted them. 37 They were frightened and terrified because they thought they were seeing a ghost.

    38 But Jesus said, “Why are you so frightened? Why do you doubt? 39 Look at my hands and my feet and see who I am! Touch me and find out for yourselves. Ghosts don’t have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

    40 After Jesus said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41The disciples were so glad and amazed that they could not believe it. Jesus then asked them, “Do you have something to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of baked fish. 43 He took it and ate it as they watched.”

Luke 24:36-43

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Sometimes in a story [a real one mind you] you get this vivid sense of seeing what really happened.  Luke’s account ignites that in me.  With the flair of the dramatic– Jesus, freshly resurrected, bursts into the room and who scares everyone.  I guess it was one of those times where you just had to be there in order to really get it.

“Frightened” and “terrified”–it took two words to describe this spooky experience.  Not only that, but they got real freaky, he had to be a ghost!  I can only imagine their fear.  I think everyone present bolted to the door.  But wait a second!  “The door is still  locked?! OMG, what can we do?”

We see Jesus [I think he was lovingly amused] point out that he was still a human being–look at me!  Think for a second, have you ever tried to get a pet dog, who is so scared he’s peeing on the floor, to come to you?  I see the disciples kind of half crawling, stooped and very unsure about this.  They slowly encircle Jesus and as they come, he is laughing. He has returned.

Laughing from the pure joy of one who has endured hell and has come out on the other side, intact.  I believe Jesus is reveling in the moment, and he is among friends whom he loves and vice versa.  Jesus is alive, he has done the impossible, and they are laughing and crying at the same time!

We have walls.  You and I.  They give us security and protection.  We feel we have to have them.  The disciples feel like there is security in numbers and safety in their walls.  I can so relate.

But Jesus penetrates our walls.  And we come ‘face-to-face’ with him.

Look closely now, it is resurrection power–the most awesome force in the universe, more intense than the sun.  It’s funny, when Moses prostrated himself before the Lord’s glory, he changed.  Not only that, but he had to take precautions to cover his face when he returned to camp.

As broken believers we must be prepared for any eventuality.  Jesus can and will burst into our homes, and into our very lives.  Can you hear him laugh?  When he comes, nothing really is the same again.  He loves his disciples too much to leave them in the dark in a stuffy room.  He comes for you!

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“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you will eat with me.”

Revelation 3:20, NCV

 

Rembrandt’s Meditation on the Younger Son

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Painting by Renbrandt, 1606-1669
“And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to  one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:11-24, ESV

Three hundred and twenty-nine words– these describe the life of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. These 329 words reveal to us a God who forgives much, and loves easily; the Father loves far too much, way too easy— and far too extravagantly for human beings to understand. Perhaps we sort of expect that he will ‘appropriately’ punish his son— at least put him on probation at least. It only makes sense.

“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Many of us have lived in prodigality, some  of us for a very long time. We have spent our inheritance like ‘drunken sailors’ and have nothing at all to show for it. The prodigal, completely destitute, takes the only work he can find. (Imagine a good Jewish boy feeding hogs.) He is so far gone that he starts inspecting the slop pails for something to eat.

Many of us will understand his despair. But there comes this crystalline moment of amazing clarity. The prodigal—filthy and impoverished, has  a memory of the Father’s house. The servants there had far more than him. Sometimes in our captivity we instinctively want to go home, if only to be a slave.

The Father has dreamed of this moment. The parable says, “He saw him–felt compassion–ran out to him–embraced him–and kissed him.” In moments we see a swirl of servants who completely overwhelm an already overwhelmed son. I’ve read the Parable of the Prodigal Son a hundred times or more . It never loses its punch. I simply want to bring you for just a few moments back into its light. I expect that the Holy Spirit may have business with you. rembrandt-prodigal3 (1)

We see that his father receives him with a tender gesture. His hands seem to suggest mothering and fathering at once; the left appears larger and more masculine, set on the son’s shoulder, while the right is softer and more receptive in gesture. His head is downy, almost like a newborn’s. Standing at the right is the prodigal son’s older brother, who crosses his hands in stoic judgment; we read in the parable that he objects to the father’s compassion for the sinful son.

Rembrandt had painted the Prodigal once before, when he was considerable younger. And it is a very good painting. The prodigal is happy and gay; there is absolutely no indication of the consequences of sin. He is charming young man at a happy party. But Rembrandt chooses at the end of his life to re-paint it to reflect reality. This is one of the last paintings he will do, and it is the Prodigal Son–destitute and repenting. I can only imagine; the years have taken a toll and he doesn’t really feel his first painting is enough. He wants to paint what is true. He is painting us.

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Feet Finders, [Intimacy]

JesusFeetOne of the more amazing studies you can do in the New Testament (Matthew-Revelation) are the people who found themselves at the feet of Jesus. Actually there is probably more than you think.

There are some common dynamics that take place by these “feet finders.”

  1. A great need- “desperation”
  2. To emphasize one’s need and true condition
  3. To ask for a healing (for self or family)
  4. To honor Jesus as God
  5. To worship more authentically
  6. To be more receptive to His teaching
  7. To witness to others

“Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.”

Matthew 15:30, NIV

“In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet.”

Mark 7:25

“And the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.”

Luke 8:35

In fact, there are several other instances where people came to Jesus’ feet.

  • Mark 5:22-23, Jairus, a leader in the local synagogue
  • Luke 7:37-38, a sorrowing mother for her daughter
  • Luke 8:41, also Jairus
  • Luke 10:39, Mary, when Jesus was teaching
  • John 11:32, Mary, meeting Jesus entering Bethany
  • John 12:3, Mary, with her perfume
  • Revelation 1:17, John to express what he was seeing (also 19:10)

In every case we find people consciously coming and kneeling at the feet of the Lord Jesus. It was a deliberate action coming from their hearts. Each had a need, custom built for this precise moment in time.

One of the classic scenes in the Gospels is when Mary meets Jesus. She doesn’t understand His delay, she is grieving and confused. But she only has one posture and one place in her heart to be– at the feet!

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

John 11:32

Being at the feet is not supposed to be a mindless exercise. She maintains her issues with Jesus re: Lazarus. But this questioning came from her knees. The issues could never take the place of her love and her honor. But I think she is an example of how our problems can coincide with a real faith.

One might say that she had every right to take up an issue of incompetence and neglect with Jesus. Much should be made of the fact that Jesus been briefed on Lazarus’ illness much earlier. And yet He purposefully delayed going to Bethany. Maybe Jesus never responds to crisis; but people in need.

To be honest with you, I have my own occasional controversies with God. I have gone through hard things that really needed His attention. I have cried and begged to no avail. I’ve tried to negotiate and manipulate and it doesn’t work.

But even there, there is found a place for me at His feet. It is where I belong. I love Him.

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The Lost & Found Department of the Universe

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“What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them,  does not leave the 99 in the open field  and go after the lost one until he finds it?” 

Luke 15:4

I like ‘red letter’ editions of the Holy Scriptures.  I will personally pause when I read these selected verses, pausing to process the steady fact that these are Jesus’ own words.  They are different, and there is a quality to them that is not found in the thoughts of mere men.  I have no doubt of the inspiration of all of God’s Word.  I trust it implicitly.

When I make that pause, very often I reflect afresh on what I’m about to read, and my heart starts preparing to listen closer.  In Luke 15, everything is lost; a lost coin, a lost sheep, and a lost son.  All three link and give a common theme of

1) Something getting away,

2) The value of that lost thing, 

3) The diligent searching that follows,  

4) The apprehension of that which is lost,  

5)  The joy of the finder over the recovery of the thing which was lost.

 

These three parables strengthen each other.  Together they have the deep power of declaration.  They speak of the merciful heart of our Heavenly Father with a permanence and eloquence that defies any comparison. 

When we read Jesus’ words they reveal to us the intense searching that the Lord has for our lost souls, and that is the central theme of all history.  Jesus is looking for you– concentrating intently and focused.

It doesn’t matter how ensnared you are, or how deeply you have sunk.  God’s love for you compels Him to seek you.  He will reach into the thorns and thistles, if He has to.  Perhaps your sin has been frequent and you are stained deeply.  The declaration of Jesus’ words reveals the heart of God.  It is irrevocable and central to the way God deals with us.

What is the secret of the universe?  Why does reality exist?  What is the purpose of human history? 

I believe it is the apprehension and deliverance of human beings. 

That’s it.  What should the Church be doing?  Finding and rescuing people who are lost.  That is the purpose of everything, and that searching is to be our focus.

The question remains of what about God’s thinking?  Jesus’ words (in red) reveal the true essence of His dealings with us.  He will always act this way! He is constant and true.  He will always be this way.  Searching, finding, redeeming and celebrating.  Don’t doubt His love for you.

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Judging Others: A Dangerous Post

Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.”

Matt. 7:1

This is probably the most common sin that people commit. We stand in judgement more often than we realize, and it turns into an automatic response over time. The pointing of the finger has become an art form, and we can be deliciously mean and be applauded by others at the same time.

Our culture has been steeped in the judging of others. We point our fingers and focus our attention on the things that are not appropriate. Christians have a built-in knack for doing so and are tailor made for practicing this sin.

Repeatedly we are told not to judge others. And we repeatedly we do so. The Word tells us we are not to point our fingers, and Jesus was clear on this issue, stating that our own forgiveness would be nullified if we wouldn’t forgive. This is a little too much truth for us and we look for detours that circumvent so we spare ourselves the act of forgiving.

On the other hand, we demand that we be treated fairly by others. We expect leniency and a fair shake. We become hypersensitive to any perceived slight or a voice inflection. We wince under unjust judgments. We resent unkind fault-finding. We demand that people shall judge us fairly. We claim forbearance and charity in our derelictions in duty and for blemishes in our character. But can we expect other people to be any more lenient towards us than we are toward them?

We squabble and position ourselves into the best light possible. The words of Jesus get nullified or interpreted so repentance is avoided. We say we have a gift of discernment, and Jesus is begging us to drop every particular issue.

37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Luke 6:37-38, NLT

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A Full Quiver, to Press the Enemy

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In an old book of prayers, I discovered this list. As I read it, and pondered them, I felt like I had been given a giant pile of treasure. And I want to share the wealth with my friends.

The idea of “arrow prayers” maybe novel to you. I, myself, am a pure novice on these things. I often see the tremendous value, without the real commitment to live it out. I often aspire, but do not attain. (Lord, have mercy on me.)

Arrow praying is identified by a short, piercing exclamation. It has little flourish, and zero frills. Religious people will often not see their value. I’m convinced that believers with a broken life will understand. Broken people will often pray things that the Father hears. We do pray, but short and to the point. That is good.

“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:” Luke 2:29

“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Mark 9:24

““Save me, Lord!” he shouted.”  Matthew 14:30

‘ ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’” Luke 18;13

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  Luke 23:42

“Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.” Luke 24:29

““Give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” John 4:15

“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” John 6:34

“Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.” John 6:68

“Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” John 11:3

“Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” John 14:8

“Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”  John 21:16

“My Lord and my God!”  John 20:28

“Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20

These are all prayers, hidden in something direct and cool. These words which are sudden and aware, and press us into a special sensitivity of godliness. Our own cries, will ride need to ride piggyback on these certain cries, and right into the heart of God.

Let us turn, as much as we are able, to the One who heals the flawed, and all those who are crooked. He loves us constantly, even when we are confused by our twistedness. I tell you, He keeps reaching out for the ungodly, for His glory and by His grace.

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kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have Mercy on us, the sinners.)

 

Real Faith and 3D Glasses

Seeing what others cannot

“When He saw their faith.”

Luke 5:20

The healing of the paralyzed man is loaded with lessons for us.  He lies motionless on his pallet, unable to move.  His incredible and loyal friends have dedicated themselves to getting him into Jesus’ presence.  But the house is full; its beyond standing room only, they can’t get close.  They are desperate.  Jesus is so near, they can hear Him teach, and yet so far away.

One of them has a wild idea.  They will lower him down into the room from the roof!  Energized by this thought they put the plan into action.  I can just see them, working feverishly.  When the hole is big enough, they carefully lower the paralyzed man down slowly.  We read that, “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:20).

Example of 3D without glasses

God can see faith.  It is invisible to us, and takes a special work of grace for us to do so.  It is not an easy thing to see faith.  If you go downtown to watch a movie in 3-D the attendant will issue you special glasses.  With them everything is enhanced.

The Lord sees faith, and responds in kind.  His powers of perception and discernment are advanced far beyond our puny human efforts.  But God is pleased when we show our faith by our works. They fascinate Him and He delights when His children prove a living faith by actions.  Our faith can only be seen by what we do.

The faith of the paralyzed man, and the faith of his friends makes them  fluorescent in a black & white world.  It jumps out to Jesus, and it is hard to see anything else.  Faith stands out, and it cannot be hid.

There is so much here in Luke 5, so many lessons and so much wisdom.  Much of it lies at the surface, and can be picked up like gold nuggets.  I think that I could preach six months on this chapter alone.  It is that good.

ybic,  Bryan