January 3, 2017
John the Baptist described his baptism as one of “water unto repentance.” Those who received John’s baptism were publicly confessing their sin and committing themselves to a changed life. Yet, John’s ministry was preparatory. His main purpose was not to baptize, but to prepare the way for the Christ that was coming after him. Those that received Christ would be baptized “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Both water and fire are seen as symbols for the Spirit in the Bible. With the coming of Christ, a new covenant had arrived when believers would be washed in the cleansing water of the Holy Spirit, and purified within by the Spirit’s “refining fire” (Malachi 3:2).
February 14, 2016
The Great Commission. Christ’s command and call: Make disciples. Go to all the nations declaring the Good News, then be busy baptizing and teaching those that answer the call to follow Jesus. Christ’s promise: His presence. He will be with you always. So go. Don’t know where to start? Read Acts 1:8 for directions. Now get going. Time’s a wasting…
February 12, 2016
Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor over Judea, made a show of washing his hands and declaring himself “innocent” of Christ’s blood. Yet in reality, he was fully responsible as the ranking representative of Roman law. How strange that the one who condemned the Innocent One to death would declare himself innocent instead. Many of us are like Pilate in our attempts to wash our hands of Christ’s blood. We question God’s goodness and lift ourselves up as innocent. However, the truth is this: We are guilty. It was our sin that sent Jesus to the cross. And when we finally admit our guilt and accept His payment, it is that alone which actually washes away our sin.
February 11, 2016
Fulfilling the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah, Jesus was silent before his accusers: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isa.53:7). Every time I read the story of Christ’s trial and crucifixion, my mind screams against the injustice. I hear myself saying, “Speak up Lord. Don’t let them falsely accuse you.” But then I remember. He did this for me. He stood before a human judge and was condemned to death. Jesus, the Son of God, went silently “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” for me.
The One who spoke the universe into existence was silent. He was condemned in our place, so that there is now “no condemnation” for those who are in Him (Rom.8:1).
February 10, 2016
When Jesus was arrested, Peter tried to blend in as one of the crowd, following Jesus from a distance. This, after following so close must’ve been unbearable. Following Jesus at church is one thing, but following Him in the public square is another. Do you try to blend in with the crowd? Are you trying to follow Jesus from a distance? When will you go public with your devotion?
February 9, 2016
The night Jesus was betrayed to be crucified, He joined His disciples in singing a hymn before going up to the Mount of Olives to pray and await His betrayer. What hymn did they sing? The traditional hymn that the Jews would have sung for Passover were the “Hallel” (“praise”) psalms found in Psalms 113-118. As the Rabbi, Jesus would have led the hymn, no doubt from memory, “Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! (Psa. 113:1)… When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language (Psa. 114:1)… The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord: O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul! (Psa. 116:3-4)… Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psa. 118:5-6)… Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psa.118:29). I wonder, did His voice break with emotion as He sang? Did the disciples feel the heaviness of the Spirit blanket the upper room during their singing? Did the heavenly choir of angels grow silent to hear their Lord’s voice? Listen all creation! The Lord Jesus is singing on the night of His betrayal!
February 8, 2016
What Jesus said is true. Wherever the gospel is preached the story of a woman’s extravagant generosity towards Jesus is told. A woman in Bethany came up to him with “an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and poured it on his head” (Matt.26:7) causing those in attendance to accuse her of waste. Yet, Jesus accepted her gift, rebuking her critics and declaring her offering a “beautiful thing.” The parallel reading for this story found in Mark 14:3-9, informs us that the ointment was worth nearly a year’s wages (300 denarii or 300 days wages). And this unnamed woman poured the whole thing out upon Jesus. What crazy love is this? What extravagant generosity? It is the only right response for those who have recognized and received Christ’s crazy, extravagant generosity towards us.
February 7, 2016
It appears that the parable of the ten virgins was given by Jesus to his disciples in a private setting, as a further illustration of what the Day of his return would be like. As such, this parable seems particularly aimed at the state of the church at Christ’s return. The ten virgins had many things in common. They were all invited to the wedding. They obviously kept company together. They all had lamps. Yet, only five of them had oil for their lamps. And only those five were welcomed into the marriage feast, while the five without oil were not. The clear implication is that many will claim to be followers of Christ without having actually received the “oil” of His salvation. This “oil” cannot be shared from another, it must be received directly from the Lord. Thinking to wait for the Day of his return is a deadly procrastination, for it will be too late. The Day of Christ’s return will reveal that many who claim to be believers, are not. Get your “oil” from the Lord now. Be ready.
February 6, 2016
Many have pointed to this verse to say that Jesus got it wrong. Even C.S. Lewis, the normally staunch defender of the faith, despaired over this verse. Yet, I lean on the verse before it and the one after it to help with my understanding.
First, the verse after it (Matt. 24:35) says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Jesus doesn’t seem uncertain here. In fact, he seems very certain. He says we can trust His Word more than we can trust the universe’s existence. So, I’m sure Jesus didn’t get it wrong. We might understand it wrongly, but He didn’t get it wrong.
Second, the verse before it (Matt. 24:33) says, “When you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.” Jesus said that those who would see “all these things” would be the “generation” that would live to see His coming. Jesus was not speaking of the first century generation in his hearing, but of the one that would be alive when “all these things” come to pass.
Now, certainly some of the things, like the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, did happen during the generation that heard Christ’s words. So, one might say that “this generation” referred to two fulfillments. The first being a foreshadowing sign and the second, yet to come.
However we work this out (we could all be wrong in our interpretations), we must never despair that Jesus got it wrong. Jesus always gets it right!