Maundy Thursday: The Prayer of Intercession

The Prayer of Intercession is probably my favorite chapter in the entire Bible. This prayer is an intimate conversation between Christ and the Father on our behalf that we may know His heart and how much He cares and loves for us. Beyond anything else, save His crucifixion, this prayer shows how much Christ truly felt our emotions, of love, longing, loss, heartache, and joy. Through this, we can see that He truly experienced the human condition. While He certainly holds true to His divinity, He also remains humble and makes requests for us, who He counts as a part of Him.

Following the Last Supper, and a whole lot of divine revelations to His disciples they begin to walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. Along this walk Christ begins to pray in the middle of the night. His prayer is said aloud for His disciples to hear and that they may be filled with the same spirit that He has in these final moments. As a soldier and his unit preparing for combat, He says this prayer to fill His team with confidence in the things to come. It is His last battle cry, His rally to arms. Though, it was not for combat, it was for love and the work of the ministry. Let’s read this powerful prayer. John 17 holds the entirety.

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. (John 17:1-5, KJV)

This first part of this prayer is Christ acknowledging His Father’s will that He has fulfilled already and asking for the strength to bring it to completion that He (Christ) may glorify His Father even more. He even says that God has given eternal life, and that eternal life is found in the truth that God is God alone who sent Jesus (who is God, the Son ref. John 1:1-4, Rev. 1:8). It is simple, and plain, yet profound and a centerpiece to our faith. To call yourself Christian is to believe in the fact that Christ is both the Son of God and God, himself. Carrying on in verse 6:

I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. (John 17:6-8, KJV)

These verses are Christ acknowledging His Father’s will. He says that His disciples were chosen by the Father and that everything that He taught and said was His Father’s will. Christ says that everything that was given to Him, He turned and gave it to His disciples. Like a band of brothers, He kept no secret from those He loved most, all the words and lessons that God had, He gave them to His friends, disciples, and his most trusted followers that they might be fully equipped for the work of the ministry after He left. Now, He gets personal starting in verse 9.

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:9-12, KJV)

Here we see Christ begin praying specifically for His apostles. Because they are special to Him, He says those that are given to Him, as our most treasured friends are, so were these men to Him. God grants friendship, kinship to be the bonds by which we learn how to love one another and it was something that He felt Himself. Christ asks that God keeps His friends, as in keep them in His will that they may be one in the spirit of God and fellowship. Jesus knows the hard times that are going to ensue following this prayer and He wants them to be kept together despite what they would do (Judas’ betrayal and suicide, Peter’s denial, the general cowardice in the face of controversy). Christ wants them to hear this also, because He knows that it is important that they hear how He prays for them that they might know how to pray for one another. We get to go even deeper with what comes next in verse 13.

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:13-19, KJV)

This is one of my favorite parts of His prayer, here this is where Christ prays for their protection, but not as we might pray for one another’s protection. See, I normally hear in prayers, and have prayed myself before, that God keep people from danger, or from death, but Christ does not. More rather Christ says that He prays aloud (these things I speak in the world) that they may have JOY despite the hate that this world shows them. He even goes as far as to say, do not take them from the world, instead keep satan away from them and sanctify them in Your Word that they might be filled with joy and strength. That is just beautiful! He knows this world will turn against them and so instead of trying to keep them out of it, He prays that they be filled with joy because they are doing what is right and when the world hates on them it is because they are doing what is right! The only protective thing He asks is that Satan be kept away from them. And that is who we truly fight against in this world, not people, but Satan and his many schemes and deceptions. Now, let us see what Christ prayed for us! Beginning in verse 20:

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23, KJV)

All right, now we are getting into why the prayer of Intercession is so important for us! Here we see Christ change from just His present disciples, and begins to pray for all those who would believe by the accounts, testimonies, and witness bore by His apostles, and that is everyone else who ever became a Christian, i.e. YOU and ME! Christ prays for our salvation here, prays that all those who should believe in the testimony of other disciples that we would be made one with God! And this is to honor and glorify God, because the world will see when we begin to act as believers and our lives change, as they should, that there is no denying that we are followers of Christ. As we talked about yesterday, that the world should know we are Christians by our love! Because as He said that “the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them” (John 17:23, KJV), that is what we are to embody as a unified body of believers. It does not matter what you think of another believer, because you cannot claim to love God and hate your brother (1 John 4:7-21). This is so important as a believer, it is beyond an imperative, that it is so important that God, Jesus, made certain to make it not only His final command before dying, but also prayed for it that we may know just how important it is to Him.

In closing, Christ turns back to His praying for His disciples that are with Him beginning in verse 24:

Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:24-26, KJV).

In closing for His prayer, He returns His focus on His disciples. He prays that they would be able to truly bear witness to the glory of God that they may have a full understanding that God is who He says He is. And lastly, that they may have the same love that the Father has for the Son. Again, it is a beautiful picture of how real Jesus was. He had friends that He wanted to know just how awesome His Dad was, and He would stop at nothing to prove to not only them that God loved them and was all powerful, but He did not want to rest until the entire world has heard this! Shortly after this prayer Christ and His apostles arrive in the Garden Gethsemane where Christ begins to pray for strength to fulfill His Father’s will by going to the death of the cross. But all of that, and more we will cover tomorrow.

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Maundy Thursday: The Command

Maundy Thursday, what does that even mean? I, like most of you, have grown up knowing about Maundy Thursday, but never what does that really mean. So, let us dig in. Grab your Bible and a good bit of spare time we are here to dig in deep to the Word to be enlightened about this special day in our faith.

We are going to be covering 3 things today and another tomorrow, all about and just covering what happened on Maundy Thursday and just how important and vital it is to know! Though, first off what is this word Maundy? The word itself just is not in our normal vernacular. The word comes from the Latin word ‘mandatum’ where we get mandatory from, and it means commandment! So, Commandment Thursday. Now that has a different ring to it, but what commandment has/was given to us this day that this day if forever remembered as Commandment (Maundy) Thursday? We will cover this shortly, today we are here to discuss the Last Supper, Christ’s revelation of omnipotence, and the Commandment of Christ.

The Last Supper as we know it, is a symbol of Christian unity in our time. But to Christ it was something different altogether, this last meal was His opportunity to impart His last few lessons before departing this Earth to accomplish His Father’s will (though not a permanent leave of absence). Often times, we place great importance on someone’s last words or moments before they pass, and with Christ we should make no exception. This last night and meal are filled with lessons and doctrine, so much so, that we are covering even more of this tomorrow! Alright, enough delay, have your Bible handy? Good, turn to John 13:1, Luke 22:13-20)

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. (John 13:1)

And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the Passover. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:13-20)

And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. (John 13:2-17)

With a complete reading of the Last Supper, we see some important things done. First, the creation of Communion, the act of partaking of the body and blood of Christ (symbolized through bread and wine) in remembrance of what Christ was about to do. It is important to note, that this was done with only those who were truly followers of Christ (with the exception of Judas who was already taken by satan’s scheme). To partake of this tradition, legacy, and remembrance, you have to believe and have nothing left between you and God (1 Cor 11:23-34). You are not to partake if you are not already at peace or one with God. You must have confessed your sins to Him and cleared your plate of all things, for this Communion is a pure symbol between Christ and you. To accept the gift of the new testament, you have to have confessed to the truth and accepted the gift of Salvation. Though that is not our focus, what He does after is.

In John 13:2-17, we see another lesson entirely. One of leading through servitude and a reminder that we still will sin and must remember to constantly ‘wipe our feet’ as it were. Christ lowers Himself (once again) to be the lowest of people and clean the apostles’ feet. This was traditionally done by the lowest in social standings of household or group. Yet, Christ not wanting to waste the opportunity to teach in His last moments cleans their feet and tells them that as long as we are in this world, we will become dirty, and we need to constantly turn to Him in confession and repentance. This way we might become clean again. Additionally, we see this wonderful lesson of servitude, that as a follower of Christ we ought to see ourselves as the least of us and serve others. There is no greater way to reach to others and show them just how God loves them than by being the literal hands and feet of God and serving them! Getting down on your knees and helping someone with their uncleanliness.

Through the events of this night Christ makes it undeniably clear to them that He is God and the Son of God. First Christ identifies His betrayer (John 13:18-20), then He tells of Peter’s denials to come (John 13:34-35), but the most important revelation comes after these. Those first two are just Him revealing that He is omniscient (all knowing) and that He sees into the future. Then He lays down the truth of how to get to heaven (though He has before Luke 9:23). In John 14:1-11.

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. (John 14:1-11)

Here, Christ lays it bare before His disciples. He told them, this is the way it is, nothing is hidden from you anymore. In Him have they seen the Father, and through Him they would join the Father in heaven and inherit the Earth. Amidst the confusion and panic of the prophesies that He is spewing out about His most trusted followers, He lets them know, that there is a great deliverance for them in faith. He even says that they should go on to do greater things than He has (referring to the work of the ministry). Jesus just lays out the whole picture for His disciples fully knowing that these were amongst His last words before the time of His death.

Next, the Commandment of Christ. After all of this, let us see what commandment Christ has given to us that this day should be known as Commandment Thursday. John 13:34-35 reads “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Now, keep in mind that Christ has already given them and all who heard the commandment that we should love our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and love our neighbor as ourselves, so why is this different? Here He says to love one another as He has loved them! And that is with His life! His entire Earthly life was to bring redemption to mankind despite our sins, despite our fallacies, and despite the rejection by His own people. He tells us that we should love in a way that the world would know us by our love! That is radical in our day and age. Most of the world will easily tell you that Christians are bigoted, close-minded, intolerant, and hateful people. The truth is that most of us who call ourselves by His name, do not show the same love that God did for us.

John 15:13 says this: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” The God of all creation (John 1:1-4) just said that there was no greater form of love than sacrificing yourselves for those you love! Now, He is not asking for martyrs, He is asking that we sacrifice our pride, and our livelihoods to serve Him and one another. He says we are His friends if we keep His commandments (John 15:14-15). Again, right before this saying He repeats the command that we are to love as He loved (John 15:9-10). After that, He goes on reaffirming His divinity by the rites of His Father. No other commandments are given until His ascendance into Heaven where we are left with the great commission. In other words, Christ’s dying wish is that we would love so dramatically that the world would not be able to deny His presence in our lives. There is an old hymn that says “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love” and I challenge you to make that so for your life. If we are truly followers of Christ then we ought to love like it. This does not mean compromising our values or bending over backwards for the world, but more rather as Christ did, teaching, and preaching the truth through servitude and humbleness.

Fasting: More than a Trend

Fasting, for most of us this word means little more than just not eating or some trendy diet to try. Yet, when we look into the purpose and ideology behind fasting, we get a much deeper image and a truer sense of what it is to truly fast. The practice in the Hebrew tongue is read as ta’anit (pronounced ta’anith) and it holds a deep root in their traditions in remembrance for God delivering them.

The practice of fasting originates with Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) as we can read in Leviticus 23:26-32

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Also, on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.  And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an     atonement for you before the Lord your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath. (King James Version)

The word says we are to afflict our souls… the word afflict is defined as to cause pain or suffering. We are to atone or repay for our sin by afflicting our souls with how we live for the day, and if you did not follow you were cut out from the people. This affliction is done by not eating or drinking (to include water), not wearing shoes, no bathing, no wearing or perfumes or oils and additionally not working as on the sabbath. And this day was always followed by the observance of the sabbath day, so it would be 2 full days before anything was done. This was done as a direct commandment from God to honor Him and remember His will for His people, and as to make ourselves a living sacrifice for our own sins as this was done under the Law still.

The next earnest and voluntary example of fasting we find comes from David in 2 Samuel 12:15-21

And Nathan departed unto his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. David therefore besought God for the  child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child,    while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. (KJV)

Here David has multiple reasons as to why he fasts. At first it is to plead for his son’s life, but then he begins to mature spiritually and he begins to seek God’s will in it all. He mourns for his son, but becomes obsessed with atoning for his sin that caused this situation in the first place (2 Samuel 12:13). Upon receiving news of his son’s death, the first thing he does before eating is clean himself and go praise the Lord in open worship before eating. David’s fast was again an atonement for his sins and in seeking of the will of God as was the purpose of the day of atonement that was set out in Leviticus.

Now, the way Christ fasted was on the complete next level… in the book of Matthew we see Christ venture into the woods for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-4)

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (KJV)

Christ denied himself any contact with others and prayed to strengthen His spirit for the things to come (not just the devil’s temptations). This is the first thing Christ does as part of His ministry. He got baptized by John and then goes straight way to the wilderness to fast, to prepare His spirit to meet the will of God for the ministry that His Father had ordained for Him. Christ later talks about fasting, and reminds us for whom we should be fasting. Reading Matthew 6:16-18 we see we aren’t to fast for others to know that our pride might grow, but rather that we might humble ourselves to God.

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you,      They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. (Matthew 6:16-18,KJV)

So, what is the big deal with people coming out and saying I am doing the Daniel ‘fast’ and coming out trying to lose weight through intermittent fasting? Well, none, however it is not truly fasting as is described biblically. For one, the Daniel fast is based off of Daniel abstaining from delicacies to express his mournful state (Daniel 10:1-3) in addition to living out the Proverb 23:6, where it is said we should not eat even the bread of a miser (defined as someone who holds much wealth). When you do not eat because of a diet, you are not fasting, rather you are regimenting your diet or food intake to help lose weight, not abstaining from the world to seek God first. That is what a fast is all about. Giving God glory by truly denying oneself.

Let us look at what each example of fasting has in common, first and foremost, they were each done in response to, or in seeking God’s will. Yom Kippur was a commandment, while David and Jesus were preparing to accept the will of God. When you fast, you should seek God’s will first, no matter what it is that you are giving up, or abstaining from, your purpose should be to seek God’s perfect will and to put Him first with denial of yourself. When you fast you should truly live out as Christ said we are to do, deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Him (Luke 9:23-24).  The entire fast should be focused on reminding yourself of who God is, what He has done, is doing, and will do for you. God is an awesome, and powerful being, there is no one like Him, when you fast, your spiritual eyes should open up and take in just how awesome our God is! Your days of fasting should be filled with His praise and worship, also spent studying His word and perfect ways. A huge part of fasting is just pondering the endless aspects of God.

Secondly, it should be a true denial of yourself. When you fast, you aim to build dependency on God. Not eating or drinking is the baseline for a fast, not the be all or end all of a fast. With Yom Kippur, they did not even bathe or wear shoes! They were humbled to the point where they took no pride in their appearance, smell, and they even endured walking without protection for their feet. And its not like they had sidewalks or paved roads to walk on, they had the desert (they were still wondering the desert with Moses at this point), so often this meant great pain from the sand and rocks drying, cutting, and cracking their feet.

Which brings me to the final part of fasting, it should not be easy. When you fast, it should be a great burden on you. A large part of fasting is enduring by reliance on God. You cannot rely on when it is something that is within your normal capabilities. For example, as a soldier I am used to traveling and being alone, so isolating myself is not a good way to increase reliance on God, however giving up video games, social media, exercise and other things that would strain myself and increase my dependence on him. Remember, all of those are done in addition to the not eating or drinking, not just the other activities being abstained from.

In short, your fast is about God, not you. You should fast in order to prepare yourself for the will of God, not to seek the favor of God. Fasting is done in direct submission to God and His will for you. A fast is not some light hearted diet or trend, it is a lifestyle of worship to God. It is worshiping through sacrificing your self and honoring God with the true recognition He deserves and that is with everything you are.

How Can I Charge for a Labor of Love?

I would like to draw your attention to a matter that we should all consider in the living out of our faith.  In the letter Paul wrote to Philemon, he makes a defense for Onesimus.  Onesimus was a slave to Philemon who had apparently ran away.  On his journey he apparently ran right smack into the Apostle Paul who had previously converted Philemon to Christianity.  Now Onesimus had his appointment with Jesus Christ through the evangelism of Paul. Now that Onesimus was a believer, Paul sought to return him to Philemon.  Paul asked that Onesimus be received as a brother in Christ, and forgiven of his wrong doings, as Philemon had also been forgiven in Christ.

If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. (Philiemon 18-19)

It is clear that Paul is showing to Philemon that Onesimus should have nothing put to his account, and that Paul himself will reimburse Philemon of any costs that he deemed should be paid by the actions of Onesimus or the costs incurred by his absence from his duties. However; is what Paul says – albeit (notwithstanding, although) I know I do not need to mention that you are indebted to me.  What exactly that debt was is not specified.  However, being that Philemon owned slaves it is not likely a financial debt.  It is more likely that Paul was making a spiritual reference to the conversion of Philemon.  In this manner, Philemon’s very soul would have been what Paul was referring to.  His salvation was brought through the evangelistic efforts of Paul, and Paul was reminding him of the great debt that was relieved when Paul led him to Christ.  In this we see that Paul is reminding him that those who have been forgiven must also forgive.  Moreover we should not add to the debt of fellow believers. 

In the early development of the church the office of the Deacon was established.  Do you know why?  The church was in an uproar because the distribution of needs to the believers was not being distributed properly.  So the apostles told the church to select men to appoint over this duty of distributing to the needs of the church.  These men were the deacons of the church.  It was their responsibility to ensure the benevolence ministry was ran properly.  Now something related to this is the fact that all the believers of the church gave towards the needs of the church and they shared all things in common.  I know where are you going with all of this? I gave you all of this background to say this.  If a member of the body of Christ has a need, and you can assist them, then you should, and you should NOT charge for your services. You should not as a believer put a debt onto any believer’s account for something that you freely volunteered to do to assist them in their time of need.   

If this were the case and the church assisted you, for anything, then you should expect to make amends to the church.  Now I am not saying that if you want to repay the church you cannot, quite the opposite.  You are to assist the church and its body of believers out of gratitude, not debt. Once again I wish to be clear on this matter.  I am not talking about a professional service where it is agreed upon that the believers are in a business agreement.  I am speaking of a need that was requested to the church, and members of the church responded to the need, and then wanted reimbursement.  Especially if the member who is asking for reimbursement has received gifts and support from the church body in the past to cover finances, food, lodging, counseling, or anything else. 

What would the church be like if when you, as a believer and member of the congregation, needed assistance after a personal disaster, or a natural disaster like a hurricane or a fire, and then the church shows up and says we will help you if you pay us?  What of that? Would that be considered the “Christian” thing to do?  Even so, an individual member should never show up to assist another member and then demand money for their services. 

If the offer is made from the requester to pay, that is another matter, and it is not what I am speaking of either.  We who are indebted to Christ are to look after our brothers and sisters in Christ as we would our other relatives.  I would never charge my brother to assist him in moving, or in repairing his home, or even looking after his pets when he was out of town.  To receive payment for such services in his time of need it to strong-arm him.  How is that love? When Jesus said that they will know you are my disciples by you love…. I think we can say that this would be a demonstration of our love. 

We need to be ever mindful of the debt of which we have been forgiven. We also need to keep in mind that most all of us have an inherent debt we owe to our fellow members in the body of Christ. We should be willing to unashamedly seek the assistance of the fellowship, and to freely give assistance as needed to the fellowship with a joyous heart.

Palm Sunday Observance

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is the observance of the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem prior to his arrest, trial, and subsequent execution.  It is commemorated on week prior to the Resurrection Celebration of Jesus’ rising from the dead.   Many Christians refer to this week as Passion Week and it is the end of the period of Lent. This entry into Jerusalem is a demonstration of the King entering Jerusalem and Jesus’ submission to his role in the redemption of Israel, and all of mankind.  This is a deliberate move by Jesus in fulfilling prophecy. 

In the book of the prophet Daniel we see in chapter 9 that there will be 483 years from the command to rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah.  Nehemiah chapter 2 records for us, “And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king,” (Nehemiah 2:1), Historical documents from the Babylonian era puts this date at March 14, 445 B.C.  This brings us 483 years later, (using Jewish calendars) to April A.D. 32. [1] 

The timing of the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem was of not just to take in the sites and see family and friends.  The arrival of Christ at this time had significant theological, political, and prophetical implications. Jesus came to Jerusalem during the time of Passover.  This was a special celebration of the Israelites delivery from death.  Passover was a time of special pilgrimage.  Jerusalem’s population of 40,000 would swell to over 240,000 in anticipation of this great festival of thanksgiving. The term Passover comes from the Jewish word Pesach, which means “to pass over”.  In Exodus we are relayed the story of how God delivered the Israelis from slavery in Egypt through 10 plagues, the last of which was death itself.  They were sparred the death of the first born by sacrificing a lamb and spreading it’s blood on the door posts, top, and both sides.  When death came and saw the blood of the lamb, death passed over that house.  Any home that was not covered with the blood of the lamb was entered by death and the life of the eldest son was taken.  So when we consider the offering of Jesus as a lamb for the slaughter, and in whose blood we are covered, we know that death passes over us also.  Death is the penalty for sin.  In Egypt, death was the penalty for disobedience to God.  Sin is disobedience to God.  Let us take a look at the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on start of Passion Week and the Passover. What Jesus was about to do in the manor he chose to enter Jerusalem would not only have an effect not only on Jesus and his followers, not the Jewish and Roman leaders, but mankind and all of creation. 

In entering Jerusalem on a little donkey, Jesus declared himself the long awaited Messiah, and the deliverer of Israel and the nations of the earth as promised to Abraham thousands of years in advance.  If you are not familiar with the telling of the events witnessed in scripture you can find them at:

  • Luke 19:29-44
  • John 12:12-19
  • Mark 11:1-10
  • Matthew 21:1-11

I know that some reading this do not have a bible to reference these events so here is Matthew’s account.

And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.  – Matthew 21:1-11

Both John and Matthew make reference to something. Nestled in their accounts is a reminder of the faithfulness of God and the importance of the study of his Word.  In here is another prophecy from the Old Testament.  The prophet Zechariah proclaimed, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zechariah 9:9).  Just as a side note, for those of you who have read the Revelation 19 and Zechariah 14:4, John tells us that when Jesus comes at his second coming, that he will place his foot on Mount Olivet.  I think it is no accident that Jesus entered Jerusalem from the direction of the Mount of Olives. 

Now the meaning this manor that Jesus entered Jerusalem was not lost on the Jews nor the Pharisees. The entering of a man into the city on an ass was probably not such a big deal.  This had everything to do with who the man was and what he represented.  Jerusalem was ripe with rumors of a messiah.  They were looking for the return on the throne of David.  They anticipated to have a great man of God to deliver a message from Jehovah.  They desired to have an Israelite above all other Israelis to liberate them from the oppression of Rome and bring God’s judgement to the world.  The fame of Jesus as a man of God was all out the region.  There were witnesses the asserted he could heal the sick, even those afflicted by the incurable diseases like leprosy.  Others told how he had restored sight, a sign that God was with him.  Then there were the ones who told how Jesus had cast out demons, and how he stood up to the religious hierarchy, and that even the authority of the Pharisees could not supersede his.  This man possessed authority both in heaven and in earth.  Then, came the stories of his raising at least two people from the grave.  This man, Jesus of Nazareth, had authority even over death.  Surely this is the Son of David, the Son of God who has come to deliver his chosen people.  Wow what an exciting day!

As Jesus entered into the city in such a symbolic way, the message was receive loud and clear.  The common people of Jerusalem and all of Israel that were gathered began to tear the branches from the trees and lay the branched and their cloaks in to the path of their king.  Like a red carpet event in Hollywood, California, people were in a fanfare of the undeniable message being given to them by Jesus.  They worshiped him and called out loudly, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” (Luke 19:38).  The Gospel of St. Matthew gave another point of view of these events when the author wrote, “The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed were shouting: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!’”(Matthew 21:9)  The term “Hosanna” is from the Hebrew hishi’a na and had the intent of “save”, but; the meaning is that of a complete thought.  The expression means, “Salvation, Thank You” and is intended as a show of recognition and gratitude to Jehovah for his “saving us”. It was clearly a great time of jubilationfor Jesus and the crowd.  But not everyone was happy with the proceedings.  The religious leadership in Jerusalem were greatly trouble by this display of public affection for Jesus.  They feared a riot and the inevitable consequences that would be inflicted upon them from Rome, and the challenge to their authority presented in this bold challenge. Surely they must have also feared the wrath of God from the apparent blasphemy of this Jesus of Nazareth. 

The Pharisees quickly challenged Jesus’ motivations for entering Jerusalem in such a public manor; and told him to tell the crowds to be quiet.  They wanted him to deny that he was the messiah and that he was the Son of God.  Instead, Jesus insisted that he is who he is, and that if the crowds were silent then the stones would cry out to give him the honor he deserves.  Wow, can you see this.  Jesus was saying that he is the creator of the world.  Creation itself recognized its creator, but not man.   Jesus in essence told them I cannot deny who I am and even if the crowd did not, then the rest of creation would testify that I am the Son of God, the Word who was in the beginning, the creator of everything that is seen and unseen in heaven and in earth.  This laying of the palm leaves at the triumphant entry of the promised Messiah into the city of Jerusalem, and the confrontation at the gate, marks the beginning of the Passion Week and the advent of Palm Sunday.


[1](Chuck Missler, 11-1-2004, Koinonia House, Daniel’s 70 Weeks: The Precision of Prophecy http://www.khouse.org/articles/2004/552/)

Fascination with Isaiah

Isaiah

The Book of Isaiah has always fascinated me.  There is so much to discover in these pages.  Isaiah among other things discusses the future tribulation and the millennial kingdom; the salvation of the Servant-Messiah and God’s plan for peace.  There has been allot of debate over who authored the Isaiah scrolls and when they were made.  The debate is very important because it either validates or lays to naught the prophetic aspects of the book of Isaiah.  The prophetic nature of Isaiah is extremely important to Judaism and Christianity alike.

For Christianity the importance of Isaiah can be revealed in the number of times it is references.  The prophet Isaiah is referred to approximately eighty-five times in the New Testament.   While some of these are repeated references there are still at least sixty-one passages in Isaiah that are used as a single reference. 

Jesus launched his ministry by reading from the school of Isaiah.  This shows the necessity of the accuracy of the book of Isaiah.  Jesus could not have said that he is fulfilling this scripture if it was not already accepted as scripture by the Jews of his time. Here is the portrayal recorded by Luke.  

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. 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, 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, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 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. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.  (Luke 10:416-21).

The New Testament the Book of Acts chapter 8 refers to a Eunuch that was converted to Christianity by the use of the scriptures recorded in Isaiah and how they related to prophecy fulfilled by Jesus Christ.  The Lord sent Phillip to meet with this man to teach him from Isaiah all the things concerning Jesus. The man believe and was subsequently baptized. 

How great a find was discovered in 1947 among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  In this archeological find was located an intact and in “perfect” condition, 2nd Century BC scroll of the text of Isaiah.  It has been compared to the oldest know text, about 980 AD and is astonishingly accurate.  In fact, scholars have concluded that it is an exact copy. This lays waist to claims that the prophecies of Isaiah concerning the Servant-Messiah, the Millennial Kingdom, and God’s Plan of Peace were added later in time by editors of the text.   You see if you believe in divine inspiration then you must also believe in divine preservation.  If God cared enough to inspire the writers of the Bible then surely he would preserve that message also.

If he preserved it then we can trust what is written.  We can trust the prophecies.  We can trust the fulfillment of the prophecy.  We can look forward to the restoration of Israel.  We know that Jerusalem will be the capital of the world because we know the prophecy of our Lord establishing his kingdom here on earth in Jerusalem for 1000 years.  Through the seed of Abraham the whole world, every nation, all of creation will be blessed.  We know this because the scripture has been preserved by God himself. 

We also know this.  That Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53.  When it says, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).   That means that Jesus did actually take our burdens of sin and he carried our sorrows and despairs to the cross.  It also means that we witnessed the chastisement of God that he took for us.  He was beaten, and mocked, and died for his love of mankind.  Jesus took our punishment like a loving older brother takes the blame for his siblings.  He died for us.  We know this because scripture prophesied this.  We know this because the New Testament recorded it for us.  We can trust it because God himself preserved the witness in the accuracy of the text.  This is the truth that sets you free.  Jesus was sacrificed to pay the debt of sin for you and for me.  We are indebted to Jesus for our very lives. By accepting this truth he promises to give us a life that we cannot comprehend.  He said a more abundant life!  More life than we know of.  That is amazing love.    

Abortion: God Forgive Us All

What I relay to you is a true story of a young couple.  It was told as a matter or confession, not to a priest, but to any who would listen.  I don’t feel the necessity to identify the couple, as this could be any couple in modern society.

http://Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

This young man was seeing a young lady, and their attractions grew to one another as often young people do.  They were both working and soon decided that it would be best to move in with one another and therefore save on some of the costs of living.  This would make things financially better for the both of them, plus there would be other “fringe benefits”. 

The young man admitted he was self-centered and was concerned more about having freed up money to have a good time and to have the benefit of sexual pleasures at will.  He wasn’t concerned about taking precautions to avoid pregnancy; that was her problem, not his.  He remember how great it was to be living with her indulging one another’s fantasies without regard to God or anyone else.  Until she got pregnant.

The pregnancy alarm “slapped him in the face”, as he put it.  They were both shocked and caught off guard. Suddenly life stopped for them.  All of their future plans, their relationship, and collage would all have to change.  He remembered thinking that his whole life was suddenly snatched from him with the realization of this permanent change.  He regretted his foolish arrogance and disregard for not avoiding this predicament by listening to his parents warnings.  He was scared.  She asked what to do.  He lined up the options: marriage, bail on her, abortion, or just ignore it. 

She wanted marriage and to keep the baby, but he wasn’t ready, so he just pushed her away ignoring the issue.  She moved in with another friend but still sought his advice. He wouldn’t return her calls.  In fear and desperation she scheduled an abortion. 

When he found out his heart was sickened.  Guilt flooded over his whole mental and emotional state.  He was shamed that he had failed her and the baby.  He wanted to tell her not to go through with it.  But his cowardice had left him unable to move, he had forsook his responsibilities and left the burden to his girlfriend.  Eventually he mustered up the strength to accompany his girlfriend to the clinic. 

When he walked in there were others like him waiting with their family members.  He could feel their eyes on him. He knew that they knew that he was the father of the baby that was being aborted.  He was murdering his own child.  He was sacrificing his own baby for what he perceived would be a better lifestyle for himself.  He knew that his girlfriend was struggling. She want to keep the baby, but was afraid that without his support it would not be possible.  She thought that he loved her.  She realizes now, too late, that he loved himself more.

The abortion was quick.  After the abortion she left with other friends who had come to support her.  He left all alone.  They never spoke again.  The guild and shame of the murderous act had destroyed their relationship.  Decades later this time period of his life would still haunt him.  Wondering what his child would have been like.  Wondering what his marriage with this young lady could have been.  How many memories did he forsake for his selfish act? 

Later he married a Christian lady.  He started going to church.  He would here the pastor teach on how God said that children are an heritage of the Lord (Psalms 127:3-5).  He read how scriptures like John 16:21 remarked on what a joy it is that a man can be born.  He heard in Provers 17:6 where it said that Children’s children are the crown of old men; and they glory of children are their fathers.  He felt such sorrow and remorse.  He had missed out on those blessings.  The blessings of seeing the birth of his baby.  He missed out on the joys of running with a kite with his baby.  He missed the times of teachings, like riding a bike, or driving a car.  More than that he missed out on the joy of having his grandbabies sit on his lap.  Unable to keep his façade up any longer. He spent hours confessing to his wife. 

He confessed his selfishness to her.  He relayed the shame of his cowardice avoidance of his responsibilities to his girlfriend and to his baby, and to God.  In tears he poured out his regrets and a lifetime of torment that he has lived with all of those years.  His wife took him in her arms and for two hours she told of the forgiveness available from God in Jesus Christ.  He eventually pleaded his cas before God, and poured out his sorrows to him.  He repented of his selfishness and lack of courage in doing what he knew was wrong.  He confessed the murder of his own child. 

He received forgiveness.  He has reached out with the support of his wife and his church to the once young lady, who he had failed before.  She too had spent a life time of dealing with the guilt and anguish that comes from the shameful act of murder we call abortion. She too has been redeemed by Jesus Christ. 

It is a terrible thing when society and governments condone the murder of innocent babies.  It is a terrible testimony to the state of a nation that prefers mothers to kill their babies for profits to be fed to special interest corporations.  Surely they will be held accountable before Christ in the final judgement.  So will the Christians who stop silently and watched this atrocity unfold before their eyes.  Especially those who live in countries where they have the right to vote on such matters of conscience.  It is not just those who need forgiveness. God forgive us all.