Mentored #likeJesus

Perhaps there was no greater human influence on Jesus’ life than His stepfather, Jospeh.  Mary’s influence would have been greatest when Jesus was a child.  Joseph would have mentored Jesus, shaping His character and His skills as a teenager while they worked side by side.

We don’t read much about Joseph outside of the nativity story.  He’s still there when Jesus is twelve, but by the time Jesus begins His public ministry, Joseph has evidently already died.  They still speak of Jesus as being the son of Joseph, the carpenter, so maybe Joseph had died only a few years earlier.  We don’t know.

But what we do know about Joseph reveals a young man of deep character and faith.

Joseph was a young man who was a hard worker.  As a carpenter, a tekton, a stone cutter, he must have had a strong work ethic and was committed to provide for his family.

“Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”

Joseph was a young man who was “faithful to the law.”   He wanted to please God.  He wanted to obey God.

Joseph was a young man who put other’s ahead of himself.  The way he treated Mary when he found out she was pregnant displayed great consideration for the needs of others and utter selflessness.

Mary must have told Joseph of her angel encounter.  He loved her.  I’m sure he wanted to believe her.  But how does someone get pregnant without a partner.  That’s inconceivable!  It takes two…

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream…”

Joseph was a young man who listened to God.  God revealed His plan to Joseph through an angelic messenger.  How did Joseph respond?

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”

Joseph was a righteous young man.  He listened to God.  He obeyed God.  He lived out the Great Commandment.  Love God.  Love people.  God had selected Mary to be Jesus’ mother, but in doing so, He had also selected Joseph to be Jesus’ earthy father.  Joseph adopted Jesus as his own firstborn son.  Joseph was selected by God for this assignment.  What an honor!

And God honored Joseph.  I’ve never really thought about it.  Maybe it was Jewish culture.  I’ll have to explore.  But what an honor…

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Joseph was given the privilege of naming Jesus.  The angel told Joseph what the child was to be named, and why.

“Christ Jesus:  Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!   Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”   Philippians 2:5-11

The name that is above every name!

And Joseph named Him!

The name at which every knee will bow!

And Joseph named Him!

Joseph was a young man chosen by God, used by God and honored by God.

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

All Glorious #likeJesus

I love how The Jesus Story begins.

“The beginning of the glad news of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.”  Mark 1:1

As The Jesus Story continues on to John 1:1-18, we read some of my favorite verses in all four of the Gospels.

“In the beginning was the Word.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Jesus is God!

“All things were made through Him, and nothing came into being without Him.”

Jesus is Creator!

“In Him was life- life that was the light of mankind, shining in the darkness.  And the darkness did not extinguish it.”

Jesus is Life!  Jesus is Light!

I love that phrase, “And the darkness did not extinguish it.”  A picture of the Resurrection.  Jesus conquered evil.  He conquered Satan.  He conquered death, hell and the grave!

“The true Light who enlightens everyone was coming into the world- a world made through Him- yet the world did not recognize Him.”

Jesus is Truth!

“He came to His own creation, and his own people did not receive Him.”

Jesus is on a mission!  Jesus came into the world He created.  He came for us.  He came for ME!

“But to all who did receive Him, He gave the right to become children of God.  These were born into God’s family, not of blood or natural desire or human will, but of God.”

Jesus is a Giver!  He gives us the right to become children of God!

“The Word took on a human body and lived among us.  We saw His glory- the glory of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus is human!  Jesus is glorious to behold!

“From His fullness we have received blessing after blessing.”

Jesus is an unending source of blessing!

“The Law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Jesus is the vehicle of God’s grace!  There is truth in God’s Law, but there is no grace in God’s Law.  Grace is found in Christ alone.

“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son who is close to the Father’s heart- He has shown us what God is like.”

Jesus shows us what God is like!  Jesus shows us how to be close to the Father’s heart!

Father, thank you for the strong reminder of what you’ve given me in your Son.  Jesus is glorious!  I want to know Christ more intimately!  I want to walk with Jesus more closely!   I want to walk as Jesus walked more faithfully!  John knew Jesus intimately, loved Jesus deeply, and followed Jesus faithfully.  I want those words to describe my life.

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Prepared to Launch #likeJesus

40 days.  That’s how many days Jesus was on the earth between His resurrection and ascension.   That’s also how many days Jesus fasted and prayed while being tempted at the beginning of His ministry.  So His ministry on earth begins and ends with distinct 40 day periods.  It makes me wonder…  is there any significance to that number?

The number 40 shows up many times in the Bible.

It’s mentioned 146 times in scripture.

Moses lived 40 years in Egypt and then 40 years in the desert before his burning bush experience.

Moses was on Mount Sinai 40 days and nights receiving God’s Law.

Moses sent the spies into the land God had promised Israel for 40 days.

Jonah, after being spewed out by a large fish, preached in Nineveh for 40 days.

Ezekiel laid on his right side for 40 days to symbolize Judah’s sins.

Elijah went 40 days without food or water on Mount Horeb.

The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.

Othniel, Deborah, Barak, Eli and Gideon all ruled as Judges over Israel for 40 years.

The first three Kings of Israel- Saul, David and Solomon- each ruled for 40 years.

God flooded the earth by having it rain for 40 days and nights.

After Jocob died in Egypt, they spent 40 days embalming his body.

And interestingly, the Bible was written by 40 different authors.

40.  What’s the big deal?  In Jesus’ ministry, the number 40 represents the Priority of Preparation.

After His baptism, Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness are a period of preparation.  His first 30 years had been preparation, but these 40 days are set apart from the 30 years as unique.  It’s now begun.  The Father has announced it, the Spirit has confirmed it, John the Baptist has heard it.  It’s Go Time!

That initial 40 day period would be one of trial and temptation, a period of humility and submission.

Jesus is now sent.

The final 40 days would also be an initial period of preparation…  for the disciples.  Yes, John the Baptist had prepared the way, and then Jesus had spent 3 years preparing them.  But just as the Baptism marked an official starting point to Jesus public ministry, the Resurrection would mark an official starting point to the next phase of Jesus public ministry… through His disciples.  Everything before seemed to build up to the crucifixion.  Now, from the point of the Resurrection, their work without Him by their side would soon begin.  Everything was in place.  The Spirit would come.

This final 40 day period would be one of affirmation and confirmation for the disciples.

Jesus sends them.

“Go and make disciples!”

“Go and preach the gospel!”

“Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached among all nations.”

“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the most distant places on earth.”

It’s Go Time!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Without A Doubt #likeJesus

We call him Doubting Thomas.  The name now applies to anyone who struggles to believe.  This moment of doubt is the one thing Thomas is remembered for.  “Thomas?  Oh, he’s the one who doubted, right?”  What a legacy.

But I think Thomas has gotten a bad rap.  The other 10 disciples had heard the report from Mary Magdalene.  She had seen Jesus and immediately ran to tell the disciples.  You get the impression that they doubted her report.  They had the message from the angel delivered to Peter and John.  They had Mary Magdalene’s eyewitness encounter.   They had heard from Cleopas and the other disciple who’d met Him on the road to Emmaus.  Cleopas tells them Jesus had also appeared to Simon.  But they needed to see Him for themselves.

That same night, Jesus appeared to the disciples.  He showed them His scars.  They were overjoyed.  “It’s true!  Jesus is risen!  We’ve seen Him with our own eyes, heard His voice, shared a meal with Him.  It’s true!”

But Thomas wasn’t there.  He missed it.  They saw and believed.  He didn’t yet see, and so he doubted.

It wasn’t until 8 days later that Thomas finally saw Jesus.  Imagine how hard those 8 days had to be.  All your friends are overjoyed.  All their conversations must have centered around seeing the resurrected Christ, remembering His words now and how He’d promised He would rise.  I can only imagine the emptiness Thomas felt.  He had to want to believe them.  He just couldn’t.  They’d seen the unbelievable, and believed.  He hadn’t.

It appears that this encounter 8 days later with Thomas is FOR Thomas!  Jesus comes for Thomas.  He knows Thomas must see to believe.  He wants Thomas to be able to believe.

Thomas had said, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.”

Maybe it’s Thomas statement, “Unless I see…  I will not believe.”  Maybe his doubt was stronger than the others.

Jesus does say to him, “Stop doubting and believe.”

But I love that Jesus gave Thomas what he needed to believe.

“Peace be with you.  Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”

I have moments of doubt.  I doubt God’s plan.  I doubt God’s power.  I doubt God’s provision.  When I doubt, it’s really God’s character that I’m calling into question.  I don’t think about it that way, but it’s true.

When I doubt God’s plan, I question His wisdom and sovereignty.

When I doubt God’s power, I question His greatness and authority.

When I doubt God’s provision, I question His love and goodness.

But I love that Jesus gave Thomas what he needed to believe.

He gives me what I need to believe too.  He loves me.  He doesn’t want me to doubt.  He wants me to trust Him.  He wants me to know Him, to know His character, and to believe.

They say “seeing is believing.”  That’s true.  That was the case for Thomas.  That is often the case for me.  God proves Himself to me over and over again.

I want my faith to continue to grow, though, so that for me, “believing is seeing.”

That’s what Jesus challenged Thomas with.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

“Believing is seeing.”  That’s what the writer of Hebrews calls faith.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”   Hebrews 11:1

“Certain of what we do not see!”

Father, continue to grow that kind of a faith in me.  You gave Thomas what He needed to believe.  Thank you for giving me what I need to believe.  I want to be certain of what I do not see.  I want to know you so well that I trust your character completely.  I want to fully believe before seeing.

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Piecing Together the Resurrection

The Resurrection account, recorded in all four Gospels, is one of the more challenging aspects of the Jesus’ story to harmonize.

Mark is the stenographer, it is believed, writing for the Apostle Peter.  Peter was an eyewitness.  He had run to see the empty tomb.

John is an eyewitness.  He had outrun Peter, reaching the tomb first.  He saw the rolled away stone, the empty tomb, and the grave clothes neatly folded.

Matthew didn’t see the empty tomb.  He was with the others when the women came to report that the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty.  Did Peter and John run back to tell the others, corroborating their report?

Luke was the historian.  He interviewed others to write his account.  I wonder whose account he recorded for the resurrection?  We assume he interviewed Mary, Jesus’ mother, because of stories regarding Jesus’ birth.  Certainly John, who was given the responsibility of caring for Mary, would have told her what he had seen.  Maybe Mary Magdalene had told her also.  They were together at the cross.  Eyewitness takes the position that Mary Magdalene was the sister of Jesus’ mother.  If so, she certainly would have told Mary (though I believe there’s a stronger argument that Salome, the mother of James and John, was Mary’s sister).  And maybe Luke interviewed Mary Magdalene himself.  You would think he would, since no one had a better eyewitness account of the resurrection than Mary.  She saw the empty tomb first, was spoken to by angels, and was spoken to by Jesus.

What challenges present themselves?

John records that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb, found it empty, and ran to tell the disciples.  Peter and John ran to the tomb, Mary followed.  They found it empty and left.  Mary then encountered two angels, and then the risen Christ.  She then went to tell the disciples, “I have seen the risen Lord!”

Luke records that “the women” went to the tomb.  They found it empty, and while standing there, were told by two angels, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; He has risen!”  The women (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others) then went to tell the eleven, and Peter got up and ran to the tomb.

Mark records that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb.  They found it empty, and an angel spoke to them, “Don’t be alarmed.  You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.”  The women told no one because they were afraid.  Mary Magdalene then told the disciples.

Matthew records that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb and found it empty.  The guards had fled, fearing the angel who rolled away the stone.  The angel told them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here, He has risen, just as He said.”  The women then ran to tell the disciples.  As they left the tomb, Jesus met them.  Falling at His feet, they worshipped Him.

To harmonize all of this, you have to take the perspective that just because someone is mentioned in the account doesn’t mean they are the only person there at that moment.

For instance, one angel or two?  In Matthew and Mark, we read of only one angel.  In Luke and John, we read of two.  So we can assume that there were two, but Matthew and Mark only record the angel who spoke.

And how many women went to the tomb?  Matthew mentions two, Mark three, Luke three plus others (he mentions Joanna while Mark refers to Salome), and John mentions only Mary Magdalene.  So there are multiple women at the tomb, and possibly they get separated from one another when Jesus appears to them.

And how many disciples ran to the tomb?  Luke records that Peter ran to the tomb, while John includes himself also, reminding us that he outran Peter.

Does Jesus appear to Mary Magdalene alone, or to her with several other women?  John offers a compelling, intimate encounter that Mary has with the risen Christ, while Matthew records Mary Magdalene and the other Mary meeting Jesus.  It seems these accounts would be one in the same, since both appear to be an initial encounter of the risen Christ for Mary Magdalene.

Did Mary and the women bring the report of the empty tomb, and then a second report that they’d seen the risen Christ?  John, the only eyewitness who wrote an account himself, records it that way.

Eyewitness harmonizes the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection in a way that makes sense and reads easily.  Others have harmonized it differently and offered a compelling perspective as well.

I don’t know that I have a lot of answers about questions that still present themselves regarding the chronology of the events with the four resurrection accounts, but I do have a growing appreciation for Mary Magdalene.

Can you imagine being the first to see the empty tomb?  Can you imagine being told by angels, “He’s not here.  He is risen!”  Can you imagine being the first to meet, to speak with, the resurrected Christ?  Why was Mary chosen for such an incredible honor?  Does it have anything to do with her anointing Jesus and preparing Him for burial, showing her great love for her Savior?

If we do connect this honor to her love for the Savior, are there similar ways that the Savior meets us?  When we become an intimate of His, does Jesus meet us in unique ways that He meets no one else?

Today, the thought of Mary Magdalene’s unique relationship with and intimate encounter of the risen Christ will drive me into His presence.  Jesus, I want more of you.  I want to be counted an intimate of yours!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Love Amplified #LikeJesus

If you want to know what’s inside a person, squeeze them hard enough… and you’ll find out.

In telling the crucifixion account, Eyewitness includes Psalm 22:16-18, 69:21 and Isaiah 53:12.  It begins…

“At nine o’clock, when the soldiers reached the place called The Skull, they nailed Jesus to the cross.”

“Father, forgive them,” Jesus prayed, “because they do not know what they are doing.”

“Like a pack of dogs, the wicked gathered to see the piercing of His hands and feet.  They looked at Him and gloated as they counted His ribs.”

When you put the potent words from the prophecy of Psalm 22 in the crucifixion account, they bring an immediate weight of horror and hatred to the story.

The closest we can come to this picture today are the images of ISIS beheading Christians on the beach or placing a soldier in a cage, doused in gasoline, and burning him alive.

What kind of person captures scenes like these on video to put on the Internet for the world to see?

People consumed with evil.

What a powerfully evil image, “Like a pack of dogs, the wicked gathered to see the piercing of His hands and feet.”

On the cross, Jesus stood face to face with an unfathomable evil.

The Jewish people had cried out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”

The soldiers mocked Him, spat on Him, struck Him in the face, beat Him.

“Like a pack of dogs, the wicked gathered to see the piercing of His hands and feet.”

I think about what a ravenous pack of dogs can do.  I’ve seen a pack of wild dogs in Africa take a carcass and rip the flesh off it, foaming at the mouth, fighting for every bone.  I had a friend in Haiti have a pack of dogs attack his goat one night.  It was tied up outside his hut.  He heard dogs barking, howling, fighting during the night.  He woke up in the morning to find a tattered rope and the bones of his goat picked clean.  There was nothing left.

“Like a pack of dogs, the wicked gathered to see the piercing of His hands and feet.”

They would seek to destroy Him, to devour Him.  When they were finished, there would be nothing left of Him.

People consumed with evil.

This was Satan’s finest hour.  Just as Satan had filled Judas’ heart, he certainly had filled this “pack of dogs” also.

They were consumed with evil.  Jesus was consumed with love.

“Father, forgive them.”

“Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame.”  Hebrews 12:2

The immensity of their evil amplifies the audacity of His love.

“But God demonstrates His love toward us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…”

To see and feel the horror and hatred of the cross magnifies the depths of His love.

“Like a pack of dogs, the wicked gathered TO SEE the piercing of His hands and feet.”

Do I see?  I will fix my eyes on Jesus.

Oh, what love!  For me!  I’m overwhelmed, buried under the avalanche of Your love set off by the cross.  And I find my heart heavy, crushed beneath the weight of responsibility that it was my sin that brought the pack of dogs to You.

Father, forgive me when I forget the cost of my sin.

Father, forgive me when I have a cavalier attitude toward sin.

Father, thank you.

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Jesus on Hell

What did Jesus say about Hell?

Hell’s fire is eternal. 

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands and two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.”
Matthew 18:8

Hell’s punishment is eternal. 

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Matthew 25:46

Hell is the second death.  The first death permanently ends our life on earth.  The second death makes our separation from God permanent.

“Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Revelation 20:15

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars- they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death.”
Revelation 21:8

When it comes to these bible verses about hell, what is the word used in the original language for “eternal”?

The Greek word used for “eternal” referring to punishment is the same word used for “eternal” referring to life.  It’s used for both in Matthew 25:46.  It’s used in John 3:16, 3:36, and Romans 3:23

Consider John 3:36.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

“Will not see life” sounds definitive, and “wrath of God remains” is contrasted with eternal life, making “remains” permanent.  While it doesn’t say “eternal punishment” it certainly infers it by a “remaining wrath of God.”

“And this is the testimony:  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
1 John 5:11-12

If everyone eventually makes it to heaven, then “does not have life” doesn’t make sense.

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement.”
Hebrews 9:27

Die once.  Judged once.  What’s the verdict.

Different forms for the Greek word for eternal are used to refer to “age” as in a period of time, but every time the specific form is used, it refers to eternal.

Nowhere when Jesus speaks of hell do you get the impression that it’s temporary.  The word “eternal” might not be used with it, but the sense of finality is there.

Hell is real.
Hell is eternal.
Hell is permanent.
Hell is separation from God.
Hell is the wrath of God.
Hell is anguish, torment, regret.
Hell is motivation.

“Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment.”
Jude 1:23