Before the Resurrection

“As many were astonished at you, his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind.”  Isaiah 52:14

2022-04-16 Jesus On The Cross

Resurrection Sunday came, but not before THIS happened.  Is it any wonder that as a man, Jesus was so strained in the Garden of Gethsemene, that being in agony He prayed more earnestly; His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:43-44)  Hematidrosis is a rare medical condition in which one oozes or “sweats” blood from the skin even thought there is no cut or injury.  Though usually not fatal of itself, it has most often occurred in people as they died or in prisoners facing execution.  He knew what was about to happen.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=125baeLbGvU

Not just the physical torture He was about to endure, but He knew the spiritual battle that we will never see – the acceptance of sin for which He was not guilty, sin that was none of His doing; all the pride, greed, lust, wrath, gluttony, envy, and sloth that you and I have committed; all the hatred, lies, murder, abuse and wickedness that men and women have perpetrated since the beginning of the earth until its end!  He was looking forward to bearing ALL that in a matter of hours.

2022-04-16 Jesus In The TombAnd should we expect God will deliver us from all troubles?  Yet, “God did not keep bad things from happening to God Himself and there is no darkness into which He has not descended.  He knows the texture and taste of everything [we] most fear.”  (Tish Harrison Warren, Prayer in the Night)

Western Christians have become so soft and comfortable that the idea of suffering for Christ seems completely foreign.  Anticipating Sunday’s Resurrection, we glide through the pleasant days before with nothing to mark us but a little ash on our foreheads. 

So many “prosperity gospel” preachers have pounded out verses like Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” that we have come to believe any time we have a problem, we can just go to Jesus and He will fix it in a matter of minutes.  They ignore the context of Jeremiah’s encouragement that was in a letter to EXILES“To the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”  Note, to the surviving elders!  Many had died; many more were taken into captivity in chains or herded like cattle between soldiers on horses.

Yes, it is a nice plan, but the prophet warned it would be 70 years❗, an average person’s lifetime, before God would start working out His plans for their welfare.  And so Jeremiah warned, Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in My name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.”

Friend, if you want an easy life; if you want to avoid controversy; if you want to skate along with the culture, do not become a follower of Jesus!  If you are looking for prosperity and the “wonderful plan for your life” that some gospel peddlers offer, just take up their pitch and rest easy.  Go with the flow when government orders you to do something; obey every rule and do not make trouble.   Remember that the Nazis loved to quote the Bible in Romans 13:1, Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”   But they avoided Peter’s assertion in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.”  And after beating the apostles, they let them go.

Stay with me here: the apostles did not go back to their little prayer group or life-affirming friends and say, “Oh, it was so terrible!  Those guys were so mean to us.  Please pray that Jesus will protect us from them and we will never encounter that again!”  On the contrary, they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name.”  Then they kept on boldly teaching in the religious government’s headquarters (their Temple) and from house to house.

Are you willing to suffer loss for the sake of following our Lord?  Are you willing to be ostracized as a narrow-minded, anti-science freak?  Are you willing to “Count it all joy,… when you meet trials of various kinds?” (James 1:2) Have you read the Bible, the words of Jesus in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  This “cross” is not some illness or natural difficulty you may encounter.  “There is something frustrating that occurs on earth, namely, that there are righteous people to whom things happen as if they were doing wicked deeds; and, again, there are wicked people to whom things happen as if they were doing righteous deeds.” (Ecclesiastes 8:14 CJB)

The cross to which Jesus calls us is a choice to obey Him against what your family will call “common sense.”  Your friends will wag their heads and say, “Well, they went off the deep end!”  Even some religious advisers will warn you not to get too radical.  But for many of us, to follow Jesus will mean just that – a radical commitment to a God who was willing to suffer to redeem us.

Oh, and there is a reward, but we may not see it in this life!  Do not be so hasty for Sunday morning that you miss what happens before the Resurrection.  Are you willing to believe in a God who is willing to die for you?  Are you willing to die for a God who will save you?

Are You Ready for What Is About to Happen?

2022-04-09 If the world hated me it will hate you“If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours.” John 15:18-20

In the western world, dominated for over a century by the USA, religious liberty has been one of our rock-solid principles, delineated in the Constitution of the United States, in the First Amendment.  It was not, as many have portrayed it, a “separation of Church and State,” but rather a constraint on government to not regulate religion.  However secularists and those with aberrant religious views (e.g. Church of Satan, etc.) have modified the principle of the first amendment to mean that no religious views… except that of the secularists… are to be tolerated.

Aberrant religious views from Jim Jones style cults to some mainline churches have contributed to this confusion by making absurd claims and trying to defend themselves with the First Amendment.  Claims by religious “organizations” that investigations by government agencies constituted intrusion into “Ecclesiastical Abstention” muddied the waters so that sexual abuse or drug use that was condoned or tolerated within an organization could be hidden from public scrutiny and legal consequences.  Now, the “public good” is at stake when someone claims “religious exemption” from vaccination, and those who truly believe they should not be vaccinated are left struggling for an argument that will hold up in court.

All of this is to say that views that were once mainstream in America are soon to be considered deviant and dangerous.  Marriage, universally and trans-culturally, has always been between a man and a woman, as is Biblically mandated.  A child was a human from conception historically in almost every part of the world.  Gender followed the science: if you have a penis, you are male; if you have a vagina, you are female.  Espousing these views now is labeled as homophobic, patriarchal, anachronistic and damaging to others who disagree.

2022-04-09 Päivi RäsänenThe recent court case in Finland where Päivi Räsänen was charged with “hate speech” for sharing her faith-based views on marriage and sexual ethics, in a 2019 tweet, a 2019 radio debate, and a 2004 pamphlet ended well… so far.  The prosecutors may appeal.  But the fact that she and a bishop of her church were faced with having to defend what they believed to be Biblical teaching under threat of fines and imprisonment is telling; this in a country known best for its limited government and respect for basic human freedoms.

Here in the USA, we still have a large voting block that is “Christian” in name, but lacking in the zeal of previous generations of believers.  And the tide continues to turn, especially as globalism goes “global.”

The privilege and freedoms associated to being a Christian in a “Christian nation” are going to evaporate faster than snow in the Arizona desert.  In their place will be lawsuits (think Jack Phillips), job losses (the Navy finally had to allow religious exemptions over the government’s protests), and ostracization by those who claim moral superiority based on cooperation with a secular view of history, biology, and culture.  And this is the world that either hated or did not care about Jesus.

When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” he was admitting to his lack of perception that there was a right and wrong.  To him, there was only political expedience and this life, one of getting whatever one can and enjoying the ease that comes with advancement in the world’s systems.

If you are a Christ-follower, you need to be thinking about what it may cost you in the near future to identify as a disciple of Jesus.  When laws are passed allowing “abortion” to be committed up to 28 days AFTER birth, when a man can go into a public restroom that your wife wants to use because today he claims he is a woman, when you are challenged to state what you believe in the middle of a PTA meeting about evolution, what will you do?

Make no mistake.  We are not called to take up weapons of the world, but we must be prepared to identify ourselves as followers of Christ.  Many pastors and churches are still teaching so much about the love of God that they are about to miss the opportunity to call their congregations to follow Jesus in His suffering.

Paul invited the Philippians to this fellowship that most Americans would find strange: “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:7-11)

We want the love and protection of God; we want to be able to walk through fiery furnaces unharmed; we want the prosperity and blessings, but we hate the idea of suffering for the sake of Christ.  But that is what some of us will be appointed to; to bear the Name before a hostile world that will persecute us.

This is already true in most of the world.  More people have been murdered because of their stated belief in Jesus in the last 100 years than in all the 1,900 before combined!  Prepare your children, your grandchildren, your nephews and nieces and any that are coming behind you!!  We must be ready for what is certain to come.

Be warned, as the apostle Peter said, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
(1 Peter 4:12-17)