Friday, March 11, 2011

3/11/11 Shaking us Up

Friday, March 11, 2011

3/11/11 When the Earth Shakes

6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.  (Matthew 24:6-8)

 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. 19 The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20 Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. (Revelation 16:17-20)

Thoughts: Today one of the most powerful earthquakes (measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale) hit one of the most prepared places for an earthquake.  This is the fifth (some say seventh) strongest earthquake since 1900 (when we started measuring such things)-and teh strongest earthquake to ever hit Japan.  The earthquake that hit Indonesia and caused the tsunami that killed 230,000 was only a little bit stronger- measuring 9.0.  The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti was a 7.0; the earthquake in Chile in February 2010 was 8.8.  One commentator described it as a "disaster of biblical proportions."  Maybe the proportions were described in the passages above in Matthew 24 and Revelation 16- which speak of earthquakes coming at the end of human history- heralding the second coming of Christ.   In the past- as when the earthquake hit Israel in Amos's day- people turned back to God in repentance.  In our secular day- the strong temptation is to describe the earthquake by measuring damage, length, depth, scale but not asking the question, "why?".  For many secular folk this is an absurd question.  For Christians disasters are alarm clocks waking us up to our need to pray and call out to God.  However, Revelation describes a dreadful day when horror after horror; plague after plague; disaster after disaster comes yet people refuse to repent (Rev. 16:9,11).  Some will go on buying their IPAD2s as if nothing happened.  However, Lent is a natural time for repentance.  Let us call out to God for mercy and help for the people of Japan, and for mercy and help for us.

Prayer: Lord, have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy on us.  Be a source of strength and a visible help to the people of Japan.  Strengthen the hands of your church there through this.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

3/11/11 Jesus peril for our Life

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”  12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.  14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”  16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

(Fresco inside Church in Bethany- "I am the resurrection and the life"- taken by the author). 

Thoughts: The disciples thought that to go back to Judea would mean death.  Jesus had just escaped from the ones in the Temple who were trying to kill Him (10:31).  Jesus knew that going to raise Lazarus would mean his eventual death.  Yet he went anyway.  His disciples were willing to go with Him.   In a similar way, Jesus comes to earth- at His own peril- in order to give us eternal life.  As His disciples, we are called to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Him (Lk. 9:23).  

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for your willingness to come to earth in order to raise us up.  May we have grace to sacrifice ourselves for others, following your great example. 

(Frecoe inside church in Bethany in Palestine
"I am the resurrection and the life"  taken by author)
Lenten practice: Look to give a hand to someone who needs a hand up today- could be a stranger, or someone you don't know well.  On the day people are drooling over the new IPAD, do not let the lust of the world capture you. 

John Calvin Abridged:  The goodness of Christ is amazing that He was so patient with the disciples who were slow to understand what He was saying.  Lazarus was not asleep, but dead.  His power would be displayed less if he had given immediate assistance to Lazarus.  It is the same today: If God immediately stretches out His hand to help us, we do not perceive His assistance.  When we languish for a long time in our distress, it is to promote our salvation.  Thomas does not refuse to die with Christ, but should not have entertained fears of his own life.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

3/10/11 Lent 2 John 11:1-10

1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
 8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

(The author and his brother, Mark Sloan, entering Church in Bethany (al Eizaraya) commemorating Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, as well as Jesus' anointing for death that took place here). 

Thoughts; Everything changes after Lazarus.  Many in Judea come to Him; His ministry takes a large upturn; The next thing is He enters Jerusalem with a crowd of supporters; but then the opposition gets fierce and He is killed;  but then He is raised from the dead Himself in ultimate triumph.  Jesus knew to go back to heal Lazarus into the same place where they threatened Him with stoning just a few days before would mean His death.  Some even warned Him (v.s. 8).  Jesus was determined to let His light shine despite the opposition.  So during Lent, we should determine that the need for people to be helped is greater than our own sacrifice.  Lent is not just giving up something, it is giving back to God by giving to someone else.  As Jesus gave Himself for Lazarus (and ultimately for us on the cross), so we should take up our cross daily and follow Him. 

Prayer: Lord, le my hope triumph over my fears.  Let my love for you and neighbor triumph over those who would snuff out you and your hope.

Lenten Activity: What in your life has been dead for days and you are still keeping it around?  What in your life is not only uninspiring but despiring?  It could be a TV show that is full of gross thoughts.  It could be some words you use; It could be some bad habit.  Look to transform such things and redeem your time, sharpen your language (maybe even work on learning a new one); don't just give up the bad- replace it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

3/9/11 Ash Wednesday John 10:37-42 Claims of Jesus During Lent

This is a daily devotional written fresh each day (Lord willing) during Lent on the Gospel of John.

37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.

Thoughts: In some ways- this passage is the beginning of Lent, as Jesus retreated beyond the Jordan- and regrouped at the place where John Baptized him.  This was similar to what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, in which he prepared for his death.  The people of Jerusalem had just tried to stone him and seize him, but he escaped twice (10:31,39).   This was an indication of things to come.  At the same time, Jesus’ works and words were bearing fruit.  The people who were familiar with John the Baptist came to him, and remembered that John the Baptists had said he was the Messiah and the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn. 1:29).   Jesus had done enough to indicate to those who were seeking the Messiah that He was the One.  It is the same today.  Jesus has done enough to prove to those who are open that He is the One who can provide hope and life for us.  There always will be those who oppose Him. 

Prayer: On this Ash Wednesday, Lord, may I remember that you were expelled from your own Temple.  May I be inspired to be faithful to you for you were faithful unto death for me. 

John Calvin Abridged: Jesus calls his miracles “the works of my Father” (vs. 37), and asks them to believe in Him because these miracles make his identity clear.  “The Father is in me” indicates that he does nothing contrary to the Father (similar to His saying, “I and the Father are one”).  Jesus withdrew beyond the Jordan to escape fighting to no advantage.  The large crowd coming to Him indicates He was not seeking solitude, but to make a sanctuary that He could not have in His own Temple.  The miracles and the testimony of John confirmed His authority.

Lenten Devotional on John

Today is Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras in some corners. 

Lent is a great tool and opportunity to get closer to God.  It is like going on a long trip to a vacation spot.  The way there is part of the vacation, and can be part of the memory. 

So during Lent, we will write a daily devotion on John during Lent.  John focuses more on the last week of Christ than any other gospel- John 11- 21 focuses on the last two weeks of Christ's life. 

Each day will have a scripture passage, a brief commentary, a prayer, and a supplementary abridged (by me) and brief commentary by John Calvin. 

Why a daily devotional?
Because God cares for us each day.
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. (Psalm 68:19)
Give us this day our daily bread.(Matthew 6:11)
A daily devotion is daily spiritual nourishment for our souls. 

(Jesus on the Cross- Rembrandt 1631)