Just show up

In my estimation the next section of Matthew 27 records the second most important thing to ever happen in human history.

“On their way out of the city they met a man called Simon, a native of Cyrene in Africa, and they compelled him to carry Jesus’ cross. Then when they came to a place called Golgotha they offered him a drink of wine mixed with some bitter drug (or vinegar mixed with gall or myrrh in other versions of the New Testament), but when he had tasted it he refused to drink. And when they had nailed him to the cross they shared out his clothes by drawing lots. Then they sat down to keep guard over him. And over his head they put a placard with the charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Now two bandits were crucified with Jesus at the same time, one on either side of him. The passers-by nodded knowingly and called out to him, in mockery, “Hi, you who could pull down the Temple and build it up again in three days—why don’t you save yourself? If you are the Son of God, step down from the cross!” The chief priests also joined the scribes and elders in jeering at him, saying, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself! If this is the king of Israel, why doesn’t he come down from the cross now, and we’ll believe him! He trusted in God… let God rescue him if He will have anything to do with him! For he said, ‘I am God’s son’.” Even the bandits who were crucified with him hurled abuse at him. Then from midday until three o’clock darkness spread over the whole countryside, and then Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Some of those who were standing there heard these words which Jesus spoke in Aramaic—Eli (or Eloi), Eli lama sabachthani?, and said, “This man is calling for Elijah!” And one of them ran off and fetched a sponge, soaked it in vinegar and put it on a long stick and held it up for him to drink. But the others said, “Let him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come and save him.” But Jesus gave one more great cry, and died. And the sanctuary curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The ground shook, rocks split and graves were opened. (A number of bodies of holy men who were asleep in death rose again. They left their graves after Jesus’ resurrection and entered the holy city and appeared to many people.) When the centurion and his company who were keeping guard over Jesus saw the earthquake and all that was happening they were terrified. “Indeed he was the son of God!” they said. There were many women at the scene watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to minister to his needs. Among them was Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.”

Matthew 27:32-33,36,38,45,47,51,54-55

It is the second most important because without THE most important thing, the second doesn’t matter at all. Jesus was a good man. Many good men have died. Jesus was an innocent man. Many innocent men have died. Jesus died for a cause. Many men have died for a cause.

The second most important and miraculous thing Jesus did was die.

The upper most important miraculous thing Jesus did? Jesus rose from the dead. One act without the other makes both unspectacular. You can’t rise from the dead without dying first so the two events are inseparable.

Without Jesus dying, our sins are unforgiven. Without Jesus rising from the dead there is no power at work and he was just a nice guy who came to an unfortunate end.

He did die. He died not for his crimes or sins, he died for my sins, for our sins, for all sin for all time.

Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 –

In his letter to the Romans Paul says this, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Romans 5:6-11

When Jesus died, he became our sin. His death wiped away all of it. When Jesus died he showed how much he loves us, how far he is willing to go to provide forgiveness for us. When Jesus died, he took our punishment away.

When Jesus rose from the grave he showed his great power and his defeat of death.

Jesus has defeated our two greatest enemies, sin and death and he has bridged the gap between us and God so that we can be welcomed back into God’s presence again.

It is all a conversation (some would say a prayer) away. God has arranged it all, we just need to accept and show up.

This morning I received an email with a confirmation of my travel to Dalian China for our company. It’s all paid for, I just have to show up at the gate and show my passport. This Jesus thing is like that. All paid for. Just show up.

Sent from my iPhone

Unknown God revealed

Acts 17

Paul Timothy and Silas travel to Thessalonica and preach and teach about Jesus and many people believe but opposition soon lands some new converts, Jason and friends in Jail. They post bond and that night the team is sent to Berea.

“11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.”

Soon the rabble rousers in Thessalonica came and stirred up trouble. Paul was sent to Athens, Timothy and Silas stayed on in Berea.

Athens wasn’t the next town over. It was 250 miles away, a 3 day sea journey or 12 day land journey.

While there he was asked to tell his story. He said this, it’s long but I’m going to post the entire message,

“Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”’

Today We don’t have idols we worship. Mostly We have ideas and philosophies.

Here is what I need to know. Gods plan to save all the people on planet earth is Jesus. Jesus’ death paid the cost of my sin, the fact that he rose from the dead and then went from here to heaven gives me hope of a life beyond death. All of my mistakes are covered by that one act. Those things that I’m too ashamed to even mention, all of that, of those things. All covered and forgiven. And that forgiveness is available to all people.

Living the life

Acts 18

The homespun chapter.

There is still much travel. We start out in Athens and then travel to Corinth, Ephesus, Caesarea and Antioch. How can this be the homespun chapter?

The chapter talks about making new friends, meeting Priscilla and Aquila, meeting Apollos. And old friends reunited- Timothy and Silas rejoin the team. Then it also talks about just living life, making tents.

“2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.”

I like this chapter. Maybe because it shows real life. Maybe because it shows friendship and fellowship, maybe because it shows discipleship and inclusion,maybe because God speaks encouragement. But I think mostly because it shows that Christianity isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. It’s a part of a life, a real life.

I know I haven’t arrived. I’m not done learning, growing or failing. I haven’t outgrown the need for grace and forgiveness. Thank you Jesus that you know me and love me and forgive me. Forgive me.

Save, heal, protect and bless my friends and family. Become more real to us Jesus.

Empty grave

Today.

I’ve been wondering if what I say about Jesus is enough. I simplify the gospel and tell people that Jesus died for our sins. All of us and all of it. I often leave out the part, the important part that he rose from the dead and now lives forever. Death has no hold on him and if I accept his gift of forgiveness, death will not hold me either.

In Jesus we have the promise of forgiveness and eternal life.

All the rest our human heroes of the past have a grave we can visit. A grave where our heroes body is turning back into dust. Not so with Jesus. There is a grave but it’s empty. He was physically raised from the dead, body and spirit.

I want to make sure that I’m sharing the whole story.

Psalm 69 says this: “5 You, God, know my folly;

my guilt is not hidden from you.

6 Lord, the Lord Almighty,

may those who hope in you

not be disgraced because of me;

God of Israel,

may those who seek you

not be put to shame because of me.

7 For I endure scorn for your sake,

and shame covers my face.”

I am not perfect. In fact I was a sinner from birth and even after God met me in my need as a 20 year old, I still stumble and fall. Jesus continues, is continuing to forgive me even now. I expect more of myself. He continues to forgive. I fail and shrivel and hide from him but when I confess and repent there is a fresh supply of grace and mercy waiting for me. Like fresh muffins in the morning his mercies are new at every place I need Him.

Today. It’s the only day we can count on. Today. Consider the offer Jesus is making to all of us; forgiveness and eternal life. Today.

All shook up

Acts 16

We meet Timothy.

Paul is told where not to preach(?)

Paul is told where to preach. (Macedonia)

We meet the lovely (of heart) and gracious Lydia.

Paul is joined by the author, Dr Luke, (“We” & “us”).

Households come to know Jesus.

“15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.”

“33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.”

Paul and Silas are stripped and beaten and still do a prison worship service. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”’

The question still gets asked today, what must I do to be saved? To be free of my sin, all of my mistakes that I drag around with me, like a cesspool on wheels.

The message of Paul is still the same today. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.

That is some good news.

Even through division

Acts 15

One very joyous thing happens and one very sad thing happens. But the sad thing has good results.

Back in Acts 13:13 there is an event mentioned that I didn’t talk about. The helper and assistant to Paul and Barnabas left the mission trip to go back home. His name was John, also called Mark.

Now here in chapter 15 Barnabas wants to let john Mark rejoin the team but Paul refuses.

“37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.”

It’s hard to see partnerships break up. When I was 14 I discovered the dynamic duo of Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon. It was 1974. The group quit singing together in 1970. I was so sad to find out this new thing I found was already over. There would be no new material.

I hate breakups. In show biz Frequently one party continues upward and onward and the other lapses into obscurity. After this split Barnabas is not heard of again in scripture although John Mark goes on to write the first of the four Gospels, The gospel of Mark. We hear of him later in a letter written by Paul.

If fame and notoriety were the goal then Barnabas blew it. He disappeared. But his protege continued in the faith. Fame was not his goal. Telling people about Jesus and encouraging young believers was what he was all about. Barnabas’ name was actually Joseph, but he had been given the nickname Barnabas because of the way he acted towards people. Barnabas means “son of encouragement “. What we see in the later life of John Mark is a sign that he probably continued doing just that. He was an encourager. Without his encouraging Saul the converted persecutor of the church, we may not have had most of the New Testament. Without his encouragement of John Mark, we may not have had the Gospel of Mark.

Change isn’t bad. The end of one thing in this case is the beginning of two new things. Instead of 1 group of 3 there were 2 groups of 2. Jesus would be preached in 2 areas at the same time.

The joyous thing in this section of Acts is that the church leadership got together to discuss what the rules are for gentile believers, (that’s me) and the list of rules are:

“28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.”

The christian life is simple but it isn’t easy.

The message stays the same

Acts 14

The cities change but the message never changes. It is the good news that all of our sins are forgiven through the sacrificial death of Jesus.

Jews and Gentiles (we are one or the other) all have the same gift from God. Jesus is the savior for everyone, for every one.

This chapter is encouraging to me. Not just because a great number believed in every town they went, and not just because miracles followed them.

“8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.”

Not just that but also because not everyone accepted the good news, in fact Paul was stoned and left for dead by a crowd who opposed the message of good news.

“19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.”

They just kept preaching. I sometimes determine whether or not I’m doing the will of God with the opposition test. None to little opposition means I am in Gods will, opposition means try something else but that isn’t what we see here. When opposition came they changed locations but not vocations and message stays the same. Jesus came to save sinners.

“21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders[a] for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.”

I don’t think that God is asking me to travel and share his message for a vocation. I think God is saying through this text that the opposition test is not a valid test.

Share the good news everywhere I go and don’t be deterred by opposition.

That’s what I’m hearing.