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Monday, May 18, 2015

Mourning into Dancing! John 20

Our last session ended with a lot of "D" words and I don't doubt you were wondering:  What will happen NEXT?

Well -- Read John Chapter 20 and rejoice with me!  But first...the sad part.

Things are looking pretty bleak for the followers of Jesus.  They have witnessed Him dying on the cross.

They have followed his body to the tomb and left Him there - shrouded in burial cloth.

Mary Magdeline has come to the tomb on the first day of the week.  It is so early, she is shrouded in darkness.  In a sense, darkness has overcome her.

She is perplexed and frightened to find the stone rolled away from an empty tomb. - Where have they taken her Christ???  She runs to get Simon Peter.

It is very significant that God allowed a woman to be the first to see the empty tomb.  Again, God "shakes up" the order of things.  A woman, the very lowliest of people in the Bible time,  is allowed to make a discovery which would rock the ages!

BUT !  Mary does not understand.  She stands at the tomb crying.

I can relate.  I sometimes forget I serve a triumphant King.  I get discouraged.  I look only at the physical signs around me and forget the awesome "out of this world" gift I hold right here in my hands!

Jesus understands my confusion.  Jesus understands Mary's confusion.  He both of us.

Check it out in John Chapter 20:11-16:

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 

Oh, I can only imagine her joy!  She runs to tell the others:

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. -- John 20:18

Jesus then appears to His disciples.  Mourning is turned into dancing as they realize their Savior has risen!  The words He speaks resonate into their lives.  I can only imagine that He speaks these same words to me today:  

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 
                                                                          -- John 20:21

Oh, thank you, Jesus, for giving me peace, just as you gave it to the disciples.

-- May I never forget the second part of your statement:  You are sending ME.  

John concludes his chapter with a key verse.  I will also close with it.  Thank you for hanging in as we studied the Book of John!  My prayer is that you, truly have experienced verse 31 and have turned mourning into dancing because YOU have LIFE in His name! 

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believeb that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  -- John 20:30-31

Monday, May 11, 2015

"D" is for.......a look at John Chapter 19

Sometimes....I get discouraged.  My computer pops up with all this bad news about our culture today.

I begin to doubt my ability to deal with all this depressing debauchery.  I despair.  I get distracted.

If  I'm not careful, I get derailed.

A derailed doubter is not of much use.

Then I read John Chapter 19 -- On the surface, one would think this is a downer description. John 19 describes the last moments of Jesus as He allows Himself to be tortured....for our redemption.

First....there comes the flogging:

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. -- John 19:1-3

Remember Pilot?  - In John 18, Pilot asked, "What is truth?"  Like the culture which screams at me from my computer screen, Pilot has no compass...He has no Savior...yet the Savior is standing right before him. 

Isn't that the way some respond to Christ today?  They do not understand Jesus' message, so they wave their collective fists at Him.  

Hmmm....but Pilot has a nagging sense of fear and, perhaps, yearning, within him.  He tries to appease the crowds by creating a public display of beating, but he really does not want to kill the one he calls "The King of the Jews" :

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”
But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”
The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” 
                             -- John 19:4-16
Pilot is desperate now.  How many proclaim self-made power to control the prompting of God within their hearts?  Pilot truly does not want to be the one who pronounces a death sentence.  He wants to remain "neutral" when in the face of the Savior.  
But, as Jesus has always said, " you are either for me or against me." Have you ever talked to someone about your faith only to have them react, "Well, that's OK for you....But I don't want to commit."   
11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. -- John 19:11-16

The process of suffering and redemption has been set in place.  The man who held on to no "truth" released the author and perfecter of all TRUTH to be crucified.
Please read the rest of the heart-wrenching description in John 19.  I will not print it here.  Read it and reflect, but do not despair.

"D" is for devil.  I find it interesting that so many words which tend to distract us start with the letter "D".    If I stopped reading John at the end of Chapter 19, I might end up depressed.  

That's right where the devil would like me to be... mired in doubt and delusion. But I will not stop with John 19.  I am a child of the victorious King who broke the chains of death as described in John 20 (read ahead!) and came to offer me....delight.

Sometimes...I get discouraged.  But, because of the reality of John Chapter 19 and the hope and promise of John 20, I need not despair.  When the world around me looks like its up for destruction, My Savior shines through and reminds me, "I am the ultimate TRUTH.  I will win in the end."  

Thanks for hanging in with me through John 19.  Thanks for putting up with my alliteration.  I'm personally going to try to avoid those "D" words in the future.  I, of course, cannot do this in and of my own strength.  

I will rely upon a Savior ... no doubt about it. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

National Day of Prayer - Time for Thanks


Happy and Blessed National Day of Prayer! 

   There’s a fox on the card.  He’s holding a sign:  “Thanks a LOT!” he says. 
   I opened it up.  Surprise.  I hadn’t talked to Deb in a while.  She was just checking in with me.  – She said she wanted to say thanks for me….well…being me.  That’s really not too hard. 
   She included a little blue paper:  “Blessings” was the heading.  Then she listed one to ten with blank slots.  Here was my assignment.  -Time to start thinking.
   Thursday is the National Day of Prayer.  It’s time to do some communicating.  – How about sending some thanks to a God who has blessed us beyond belief? 
   “Wait a minute,” you might say.  “Where are my blessings?” 
     This past year brought cancer to my door.  My dad died.  Three surgeries carried my family into 2015.  Oh, my…I still have blessings.  I want to pray.  I need to pray.   
    Prayer is really like my “Thank You” note from Deb.  I need to check in with God.   I need to say thanks for God being...well...God. 
   I’m picking up my blue paper and talking to God today on this National Day of Prayer.  –Care to join me?
   Thank you, God, for
1.       The glorious place in which I live.  Home, village, country
2.        Time with my husband.
3.        A trip to get Taylor from college
4.       My church family and glorious way they rally around God and His projects
5.       Fresh garden soil. Fresh garden flowers.
6.       Kids Community Bible Study and children I love.
7.       The East St. Louis Christian Activity Center and children I love
8.       Three daughters, two sons, and lots of friends I meet along the way.
9.       God who gives me strength and focus and hope.
10.   Foundation to stand on … hope for tomorrow.