Thursday, April 09, 2020

Thursday Turmoil on Holy Week

I have to thank John MacArthur for the work on his book, One Perfect Life. It is an amazing harmony of Scriptures regarding the life of Christ! Without Him, these Holy Week thoughts would not be possible!

Get his book- it will bless your soul!

Here is what the Thursday of turmoil looked like.

How are we today? Good by comparison!

The business of the morning was all about securing the room and elements of the Passover meal. 

John 13:1-20
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end

Matthew 26:26–29
[26] Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” [27] And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, [28] for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. [29] I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” (ESV)
   I have had the privilege to go though a passover meal on a few occasions. If you ever have an opportunity to do it, please take advantage of it. I have been so blessed to partake of the elements snd rejoice that I am waiting to drink the celebretory last glass of wine with my Savior because He drank the bitter cup of wrath! 

I know I am not commenting much on the institution of the Lord's Supper (Eucharist/ Communion) right now.... I may spend a little more time on it on Good Friday.

Let's read and comment- this was going to be night the world will not forget.

John 13:1-20
During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. 
He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
 This is just after sunset on Thursday evening. And Jesus knows what is approaching.
 I love the song by Tim McGraw “Live Like You Were Dying” which tells of a man’s courage and freedom to live life to the fullest after he gets a terminal cancer diagnosis…”I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing” and he rides a bull, goes fishing, reads the Bible more… and again, nothing wrong with that song….I love it! I would do the same thing!
 But notice what Jesus does as He approaches His death… He loves and serves to the very end.
 This story of Jesus washing feet to love, to teach, to leave an example has always been so special to me.
 But one summer a few years ago, I received a tiny bit more insight….. because my daughters talked me into buying sandals called ‘Chacos’. I was reluctant..but they quickly became my favorite summer shoe at that time! I did everything in them!
 However, I never stopped thinking about foot washing when I came in at the end of the day- sandals leave my feet NASTY!
 And notice how low and humble this act was by the King of Glory. Not only did He wash feet..He dried them with a towel that was wrapped around His body- completely naked and vulnerable.. the same way He would be hanging on the cross in mere hours…..
Some interesting pieces of this passage:
 ‘he loved them to the end’-  I know I was heavy on God’s wrath yesterday…but as much as God hates sin (look at the pain of the cross)… He even more so loves (look at the pain of the cross). Why do I doubt that He loves me that much? Brothers and sisters…..HE LOVES US..OH, HOW HE LOVES US!
 Election- (During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him,)…..but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”- …I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. My guess is that Jesus still washed Judas’ feet- serving and loving even His enemy!
 Lordship of Jesus- You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.
 Justification – We tend to struggle in this area. Justification is the legal declaration that our sins are wiped away, cast as far as the east is from the west, not counted against us when we put our trust  in Jesus in an attitude of repentance from our wicked ways. That is why Jesus says, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
 Sanctification- After justification, we begin the process of sanctification… growing in grace and obedience. Our obedience does not earn salvation… that is by Jesus ALONE- but we begin a process of putting to death the sin our lives and putting on the fruit of the Spirit- this requires a daily visit to the doctrines of grace, confessing sin, and endeavoring to walk with Him. This is reflected in Jesus response to Peter wanting Him to wash his whole body- “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean..
 FOLLOWING JESUSIf I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
 and this is the tough thing ….. I know what to do… I am inspired by what Jesus did and others do for me…. but why do I NOT do this more?
 I need to humble myself and look to serve others….just as Jesus did… even if these are ‘enemies’.
Lord, you died for me… what is it for me to wash some dirty feet in Your name?
Luke 22:24-30 RIVALRIES!- Even at the last table!
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
 I guess the saddest part of this is that Jesus had just washed their feet! Judas is gone and the disciples are showing selfish rivalry!
Part of the influence of the world is a ‘big buy into’ the pecking order of ‘compare and compete’- it is a part of our DNA- we seek power and approval and the default setting is to use power for personal gain. This starts EARLY in life…. part of the pain of middle school/Jr. High is that students begin to push, pull, manipulate, gang up, shrink back, dominate into a chaotic sea of drama.
 We still have it in the adult world, but pretense and escape or coping mechanisms are in place to soothe the misery.
 Notice the sharp tone Jesus uses to attack this system:
 The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.
 I call this ‘sanctified sarcasm of the Savior’- The ‘kings’ become the benefactors- and that should not be!
 Jesus points to the ‘Kingdom model of rule and order’:
But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
 We used to sing a sweet praise song: “If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be a servant of all”.
 I wanted to share a few other Scripture verses that support some of these principles:
 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 14:8-11 ESV)
 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty (serve tables). But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.
(Acts 6:1-8 ESV)
 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
 Even with all the juvenile and worldly rivalry- Jesus knows the pain and payoff is coming for ALL of them.
 I have often thought it was interesting about the great throne room in Revelation:
 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. (Revelation 4:4 ESV)
I often think of this a 12 Patriarchs of the Old Testament and 12 Apostles in the New Testament- just a guess- but there will be order and activity in the New Jerusalem- but instead of these elders being the benefactors- we will be blessed to see what a godly government looks like after a lifetime of human squabbling and failure!
This one has always made the hair on my arms stand up... gives me chills...
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34 ESV)
I have no clue what I would do if Jesus told me that Satan was demanding to sift me like wheat and was explaining that I was going into the crucible of his hatred.
I have always loved Peter. He is the one whose story resonated with me- blue collar tough (like a football linebacker) – arrogant- leader- opens mouth before thinking- bold- aggressive.
He is the one that Jesus leads through brokenness, many times, and loves him to restoration.
We know the story- great highs: walking on water- proclaiming Jesus as the Christ- preaching at Pentecost- healing people with just his shadow in Acts.
We know his lows: ‘get thee behind Me Satan’- weeping bitterly after the third denial- and church tradition says he watched his wife martyred for the faith and then himself was hung upside down on a cross.
 I devoted a section of writings about him- because knowing the story makes his epistles come alive!
I may end up writing my next devotional book just about him.... sounds like a good project!
But what can we see about this passage?
 God allows Satan to attack– but it always results for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28)
Satan is evil and powerful and he hates those who live for Jesus
What Jesus prays is accomplished I have prayed that you will not fail and when you return
We should never promise what we will do for God. We pray for God’s grace and are totally dependent on Him.
Even the greatest men of faith have feet of clay.
I often get weary when I think of the constant attack of evil and sin. Even the unwholesome commentary during this current Covid 19 crisis is so petty and unprofessional! 
In the depths of Peter’s greatest sorrow- there is no describing the helplessness and loneliness of those deep hurts and losses. God sees and feels that pain and I know His heart aches for the final destruction of pain and loneliness- we live in a broken world among broken people.
But NONE of that pain will even be a drop of the joy that Peter experienced as he stepped through eternity into the arms of His loving friend and Savior.
This is the day that I will be excited to meet.. in His timing and for His glory!
The great Passover night teaching continues......
John 14:1-14
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."
Jesus knew the fear, sorrow, and anguish was coming.... He is trying to help them get ready! Have you ever gone to the Bible needing the assurance that God is going to be there… that He cares?
If so- I hope you found some of the amazing balm that drips from almost every chapter of His Grand Book. It is one thing to be comforted by others- and we all appreciate it.
But there is deep comfort offered in the hope of Scripture. Over the years, I have found strength in the Psalms, in the words of Jesus, in the joy of Paul…..
This morning, as I write this- there is a great need for this comfort.
This is one of the strangest times of my life.... there is some real sorrow and fear out there. We NEED Jesus more than ever!
Why does the comfort of Christianity stand out with such distinction?

The Greatest Comfort of the Greatest Fear

Ultimately, the comfort of Christ covers the greatest mystery and fear of all.. the need we have to face death.
Jesus is the trump card over the greatest possible tragedy any human can face. There have been a few times in my life I have had to face surgery. When the anesthesiologist puts me in the final stages of my pre-operation sleep- it is such a great peace to know that I am taken care of. The likelihood of me not waking back on earth was very unlikely, but I could approach it with peace knowing that Jesus has a place prepared for me.
Learning to release the panic grip on life is a winning edge for believers in Christ. Peace in the midst of the storm!
The older I get, it ends up being the greatest ministry that the gospel affords.
Even funerals of those who has passed away in a solid walk with Christ is an entirely different event. The passage for all funerals of believers is the common refrain:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV)
Back in 2004, when my mom passed away- I picked up a daily devotional book for that day and the verse was that same bold promise:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV)

But Jesus Comforts Everyday as Well

What is neat about this passage is that we get the feeling that Jesus doesn’t just comfort us with the ultimate mystery, He is with us in all of our troubles….
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
Jesus is so caring that He walks with us in all kinds of anxiousness and concern. He does not turn us away for things that some would call ‘trivial’.
In fact, if you take the ‘list’ of stuff that is hanging on me this morning… minor pain, family health issues, finances…. my situation is VERY trivial in a world of Covid-19, cancer, job furloughs, violence, war, and tragedy…. but God does not dismiss my plea to Him at all!
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
Jesus and His Spirit (the Comforter/Helper) patiently teach and carry us through all kinds of concerns and issues of life. Paul knew of this power and peace:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)
Jesus is still more concerned about His disciples than Himself!
Jesus knew they were troubled.
He initiated the ministry of comfort.
He answers our deepest fears with boldness and confidence. “I am the way”
He has experienced these same passions and can empathize with our needs.
He applies the ministry of comfort- personally! He calls Philip by name!
And the beauty of Christian comfort is that is is transferable:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV)
I have a good friend and assistant coach who was misdiagnosed many years ago and found out very late that he had testicular cancer that had metastasized.
His testimony was that while in the doctors office, right after receiving that ‘bad’ report he was leaning up anxiously in his chair. He had heard someone teach about faith and used the illustration of Biblical faith being more than intellectually believing a chair can hold you, Biblical faith is sitting in that chair… showing you believe by putting your weight into it.
As he thought about it, he sat back and ‘rested’ in that chair- symbolically telling the Lord that he was going to fully trust Him in the process.
He is still resting 19 full years later, cancer free, married, a dad to beautiful, growing up children and able to comfort others with that comfort he received.
My mom in 2004 was a different type of healing- maybe a better one in light of eternity. I live in the comfort that because of their faith in Jesus, I will see them in due time. And they are pain free, cancer free, free from the curse of sin, and joyously in the presence of Jesus.
The comfort of Jesus has no close second…. let us cling to Him in all of our troubles!
The PASSOVER teaching continues.....
John 15:18-25
“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. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.
It is so sad to me that there are Christians around the world right now who are despised and hated just because of their alliance with Jesus Christ. Some have said the number under persecution right now on the continents of Asia and Africa is as high as any time in human history.
This is going to sound so trivial, but still an example. There is a sweet teacher and coach at my school who occasionally tweets out a Bible verse image. When her tweet shows up on my feed, it has her name and then a "warning' that her tweet contains 'sensitive content'- I click on it and it is just a Bible verse!
And why? “They hated Me without cause”. The tenants of Christian faith allow for peace and good. Even when critics point to terrible blights in the history of Christendom like the Salem Witch Trials, the Crusades, forced conversion, institutional child abuse, apathy to slavery or other types of social injustice… they refuse to acknowledge that it was Bible believing Christians who were stalwarts in correcting these atrocities.
So the followers of Jesus have made tragic mistakes- even more so have terrible things been done by people who SAY they are following Jesus but are impostors and apostate and we know this by their fruit.
But hating Jesus? What did He do to deserve to hang on the cross? Is not the cross of Christ evidence of the blind hatred of ‘the world’?
In this passage, Jesus is preparing His disciples for the attack of evil against the gospel. He is reminding them that they will be a threat to the ‘City of Man’ because they are now aligned with the ‘Kingdom of God’.
The day you publicly identify with Jesus Christ is the day you have instant enemies because of no action of your own. No different than being born American and knowing that there are those who would destroy you if they could…. it is a sad reality on the heart of men.
All of my life, I have felt a strong desire to get along with people. It is likely the best trait I got from my mom- she was always tender, kind, agreeable, and able to get along with anyone.
 A few years ago, someone called me ‘irenic’- it was a term I was unfamiliar with..but after some searching found that is meant ‘peacemaker’.
 So, you can imagine how disappointed I get and how I have had to grow in a perspective that I will have enemies, critics, and opponents… no matter how hard I try… sometimes just due to spiritual conflict of these two kingdoms.
Google has flagged my blog as 'having misleading and shallow content' and they have removed ads... which is fine with me. I keep resubmitting it for review... but each time, it is a no.
 The tough thing is that I have done things– selfish things or lazy things- that unintentionally produced ‘enemies’ or at least those with a ‘strong dislike’. I have been misunderstood at times,  and the result was disappointment or a lack of trust.
 And in all disagreements, they would say..’.there are two sides to every story’.
 The reality is.. through some actions of my own, misunderstandings, and just conflict of values..I do have ‘opponents’….some I know and some I have never met.
 There are groups who would hate me simply because I am part of the Christian community or a citizen of the United States.
 Regardless of the circumstances, we are to not be caught surprised or get discouraged if we find those who oppose us- no one gets through life unopposed.
 And the Bible also teaches us how to live with this reality:

 John 13:31–35

A New Commandment 

("Maundy" Thursday comes from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment, reflecting Jesus' words "I give you a new commandment.)

Love and pray for opponents:

John 13:31–35

A New Commandment

[31] When he (Judas)  had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. [32] If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. [33] Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ [34] A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. [35] By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV)

This is nothing new to the disciples... they had heard it... they just weren't getting it... YET
Look back at the Sermon on the Mount....

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 ESV)
Is there any more impossible call for Christians? Yet, history has examples of many followers of Jesus who have forgiven in spite of terrible circumstances. Years ago I was admonished for not praying for people who I knew were against me…and this good friend was right. By the way, praying for your persecutors will likely not change them, but it protects you. And it is a reminder, we are no better than those who are against us. We treated God way worse than anyone ever treated us. So when we forgive, we are acknowledging how deep the Father’s forgiveness is for us! We have received eternal mercy, so we give mercy.

 No need to cower from opponents:

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6 ESV)
This is an even greater challenge. Just because I have enemies… foreign and domestic… I do not have to live in fear. I wrote on the outstanding response of the people of Boston who did not let the marathon bombings shut them down. That is the best response when we are hit- we will not cringe in cowardice… we keep going. Going Forward When Everything Screams Stop
Years ago, I knew that there were some who did not agree with my approach to football when I was a head coach in Nashville- and I let my knowledge of their dislike impact a few decisions from time to time. I have since grown and have a much healthier understanding that critics will always be there- so I need to constantly evaluate how to get better, but I also need to do what I know to do with passion and freedom and let whatever happens, happen. In the end, those who wanted me gone got what they wanted. It was in their right to make that decision.
And what did I find out? It wasn’t that bad… humiliating? yes. Scary not having a job? yes.  But God took care of me.
Here I am many years removed in a new place and new job... and I have people who don't like me here as well. Same issue... sometimes I screwed up, but sometimes it is just because they are kind of a jerk. Maybe they think the same thing about me!
 We do not have to be marginalized or restricted by the presence of critics or opponents. In fact, the best thing to do is to live confidently and without fear or reservation. The best life to live in view of our opponents, is to live full steam ahead, trusting in Jesus enough to be who we are and do what we are called to do.
And the key is asking God to give you a supernatural love. This does not mean we agree with their actions or attitudes- and it definitely doesn’t mean we do not fight or respond to them if necessary in self defense. But we pray that God will change their heart…just like He did the apostle Paul- who was persecuting the church with vigor!
Never forget- an enemy can be a forgiven brother in miraculous moment of humble prayer and repentance.
Yes, the system of the world is against the people of faith. Let’s stand strong and firm in living for Christ in such a way that when we are hated… it is without cause and may God be glorified in the process!
And if you do that…what better evidence do you have that the Holy Spirit is residing in your heart?
I bet you never knew how good the dinner sermon was on the night Jesus was betrayed!
John 14:12-14 and 25-31
 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.”

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” A unique part of Scripture is surmising the tone and tenor of spoken statements. What type of tone do you hear from Jesus?
 The early days of my life with Christ- I heard these words with a stern command. But I never will forget hearing one of my former players reading this Scripture out loud. He read it almost like a kind, matter of fact- statement of truth. Almost like- “I’m an Alabama football fan- of course I will watch the game!”  use the same tone…If I love Jesus…of course I will keep his commands– not a policeman with a billy club- but out of my love for Him is a desire to do as He wishes!
 It connected an important part of sanctification. What follows after this statement of obedience?
 See, the Christian life is not hard… it is simply impossible!
 Every true believer in Jesus has this awesome prayer made by the Savior… He has asked the Father to send us a personal coach and supporter!
 And though the Holy Spirit is mentioned all throughout the Bible- this section in John has some of the most concentrated teaching on Who He is and what He does.
 Notice the pronoun…”He”
One of the issues I had to wrestle with is that a ‘Spirit’ to me seemed like a mist or smoke that ‘fills me’- but the gospels correct this incorrect view…. God sends us a PERSON to help us. And I don’t get a half or a quarter of a person…I get the whole.
 Being ‘filled’ with the Spirit has nothing to do with how much of a spirit I have… it is more about how much of ME He has! Am I willing to be helped by the Helper?
 The Attributes of the Spirit in this Passage:
 SPIRIT OF TRUTH– an evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life is discernment. Without the Spirit, you cannot perceive the truth of God.
 ETERNAL– Please never forget this blessing.. as my earthly life passes 50 years and I feel like more is past than future… how important is eternity?
 HIDDEN– Because of the rebellion, hard heartedness, and sinful disposition of the world, the Holy Spirit is hidden or not known- we need to pray that blind eyes will see!
 INDWELLER– He resides in us! So we should be manifesting His, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control.
 The Ministry of the Spirit in this Passage:
 Another  Helper– we have many helps- the earthly example of Jesus, the Scriptures, encouragement and fellowship of fellow believers- but the Spirit is the powerhouse of all help!
 Teach– He is the one who illuminates and makes the Word of God living and dynamic. He speaks through teachers, He inspired the writing of the Scriptures.
 Bring to memory– this is the cool one! How often have I been sharing and the Spirit brings a verse that I had not though of in years…amazing!
 Peace and Security– God’s peace..the one that passes all understanding does guard our hearts and minds in Jesus (Phil. 4:6,7)
 And what follows is important
This section leads us to John 15 and the fruitful branch…… having the Spirit is crucial. Learning to abide in Him takes time and practice.
John 15:1-8
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
Have you ever hit that point where your sense of God’s presence seems stale or distant? Does the weariness of the world and the contrary winds of culture make you want to chunk it all away?
Are you finding that you aren’t praying or sharing Jesus with others?
We always want to be very careful…. I have always found 2 Timothy 3:1-7 to be scary
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
And if we are honest… any anecdotal survey of CHURCH culture has numerous examples of this.
What Jesus describes in John 15 is an analogy of WHERE the source of power flows from and what our daily purpose should be.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
The source of power is the Triune God- the Creator of the Universe- the Almighty. And there is a purpose for His kingdom…’bear more fruit”.
What fruit are we talking about? There is both internal and external fruit that should, over time, flow out of the life of a Christian.
Internal Fruit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
(Galatians 5:22-25 ESV)
External Fruit:
I believe an excellent argument could be shown that Scripture expects fruitful produce in life among His people based on God given talent and opportunity. These follow in the form of children, good works, multiplying disciples, adding to the church, service, and a productive life of excellence which glorifies God.

Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
What does it mean to abide in Jesus? Abiding is found in time, place, frequency, intensity, and duration.
TIME: This is a relationship that grows roots and shoots over a long period of time. ‘Hours for the world and mere minutes for Christ” is not a way to develop this abiding principle.
PLACE: God is everywhere and dwells within every believer- but I also believe ‘abiding’ incorporates a place where you get away and spend focused time with God. The gospels frequently mention about Jesus withdrawing to a desolate place, usually on a mountain and spending time in prayer. The best times of abiding in my life have been times where I had a designated time and place to get away from all distractions and contemplating deep thoughts and prayers to God.
FREQUENCY: “Abiding” also grows as we have these experiences with regular repetition.
INTENSITY: Abiding with Christ is not a 5 minute ‘Jesus Calling’ quick scan. It is not a checklist duty of the day. We need to bring our ‘A’ game to the meeting.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?  (Psalm 42:1-2 ESV)
DURATION: Is there a set time? Absolutely not! And if I am honest, I will have periods of ‘routine’.. it is better to do it that no do it… but I encourage you to consider every now and then spending bigger segments of time abiding in the Lord, meditating on His Word, on your knees, praising Him with zeal!
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
YIKES…These images! But have you ever noticed what happens when you remove a stick from a fire? It burns out. So do we, when we cease to abide, we burn out in a sad pile of human inability.
And we all experience this….
Look at the earlier statement:
Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
When you get to those dark times or dry times- you are experiencing one of 2 things:
Either you are a true believer and you are being pruned for more effective gospel impact
You were never a part of Jesus in the first place.
Part of the answer is- are you miserable apart from Jesus or is it no big deal? Do you miss Him?
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
When you spend time with Jesus and learn to rest in Him, be with Him, abide in Him- you find your heart being tuned to His desires and will. And you begin to pray according to His heart and will, and He responds with beautiful expressions of love and grace.
And is there ANYTHING more attractive than a man or women so in love with the Lord that their lives spread sweetness and encouragement, peace and strength, service and contentment to many around them?
I am convinced if we took the time and effort to abide in the true vine… we would see global expansion of the gospel like no other time in history.

Do you believe this?
John 17-18:1
When Jesus had spoken these words (various teaching regarding Holy Spirit and time is drawing nigh), he lifted up his eyes to heaven,
This chapter in John just thrills me.. in some ways THIS should be called ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and the one we say all the time “Our Father, which art in heaven..” should be the ‘Disciples Prayer’- but good luck seeing that changed…..
Jesus look upward: there is no true ‘posture’ of prayer- it is a heart attitude. I do find it is good to fall on my knees and pray and Jesus will fall down in prayer in the garden, but no need to judge anyone on how they look when they pray.
And He speaks this prayer out loud……
and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
 Jesus is about to rise up in His hour of calling. And the stakes could not be higher..eternal life. What will make heaven go forever without boredom? Eternal life is knowing God… and it will take eternity to know Him.
 What an amazing statement:  I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
 This life is a fulfillment of a plan.. one drawn up before the very foundation of the world.
“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
 Is Jesus praying for you? If you are in Him yes…. if not…. look back at what He said.
But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
Just like the disciples- we are left in this world for a reason. And if we follow the truth, we will be set apart for His good purposes!
DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WERE IN THE BIBLE? Look at this amazing next verse!
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
When we come to Jesus in the conversion of repentance and faith- we join a historic stream of gospel unity that is a pure and refreshing as the first century! It is hard to see this true stream because the ‘invisible’ church is within the external church… but I meet saints all the time whose hearts beat like Peter, James, and John…flesh and blood people of faith in Jesus!

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
There will be a day that Jesus will point you out and say..”Look..He is mine!” And then we will join Him! And the eternal love is beyond our comprehension!
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.
And when they had sung a hymn, he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.
Here comes the darkness……… the name ‘Kidron’ means darkness-
Here are the Biblical references:
Kidron is the name of a brook near Jerusalem and there seems to be something ominous about this brook. David crossed it on his flight from Absalom, and after crossing it he went up the Mount of the Olives weeping (2 Samuel 15:23).
A thousand years later, Jesus crosses the Kidron (spelled Κεδρων; this is the only time that this brook is mentioned in the New Testament) and immediately after this, He is betrayed by Judas and enters the cycle that results in His crucifixion at Golgotha (John 18:1).
The Kidron is mentioned as the border of the allotted range of Shimei, the one who cursed David. When he crosses the Kidron, Solomon has him executed (1 Kings 2:36-46).
Matthew 26:30-56/Mark 14:32-52/Luke 22:39-53/John 18:2-11
 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.
While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.
Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.”
And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
Reading a harmony of all the gospel accounts.... the varying details in each is extremely interesting.
Though we have all read this event many times, I always find interesting points to meditate on.
This was a very late night event in darkness. Even though Passover occurred during a full moon- Olive trees would provide darkness and cover. I think we often lose perspective on how dark, dark is because our night skies contain the effect of electric lights… Biblical Palestine has no extra lighting.. the torches and fires actually make it tougher to see anything beyond their small ring of lights.
It is dark, it is late (midnight or later), they are so tired from the tension and mystery. And in this darkness, evil and chaos is approaching.
We have at least three times where Jesus prays in agony, where the intensity of the prayers cause Him to sweat ‘like’ drops of blood (I can’t surmise that it was literal blood even though there is a condition called hermatidrosis that occurs under heavy distress).
It is always worse when you know it is coming. And we still have no clue to the depth of the pain of Jesus taking the cup of God’s wrath toward sin. It is easy to say that the physical pain was nothing compared to the spiritual pain…but we have no ability to comprehend the sacrifice.. it was eternal.. and the distress of Jesus shows us the magnitude of the pain and passion!
He brought them with him, just like on the Mount of Transfiguration and He asks them to pray…. in fact He asks all the disciples to pray… but we find no evidence that they did anything but sleep. The depression, darkness, and fatigue was too much for their flesh. He finds them sleeping and admonishes them three times…. Jesus has no one come to aid His request.
There was no other way. And that is why it is such heresy to suggest there is another way to heaven. If we can get to heaven by any other way than the atoning death of the Son of God- it would have shown up right here…. it is not arrogant to say that Jesus is the only way. It is extremely disrespectful and foolish to suggest there is another way. Has any other figure in history done what Jesus did? Other faith traditions offer words and good deeds… Jesus paid with his blood!
Judas devised the kiss as the signal that ‘this is the one’. The greek word here is a “kiss repeatedly or earnestly”- again- in the darkness it would be hard to KNOW which one was Jesus and it would be smart to have others take on the ‘appearance’ for His protection. But Jesus is not hiding and sadly, the sweetest man the world has ever seen was betrayed by a kiss!
This was a big throng made up of temple guards, officials, and some Roman soldiers.
Mark Twain once quipped that ‘the mass of men are cowards’ and though these men were armed with clubs and torches.. they were still afraid of Him. The gospels record their shrinking back in fear.
Peter swings the sword and hits the ear of Malchus…. don’t be fooled… he wasn’t aiming for the ear. Jesus tells him to put it away and heals the man who was there as an enemy.
John MacArthur comments on the ‘legion’ of angels who would come to Jesus’ rescue immediately if He so called for it.
“A legion was comprised of 6,000 soldiers. Twelve angelic legions would be 72,000 angels. Bear in mind that in the Old Testament- when Sennacherib’s armies threatened Jerusalem- a single angel slew 185,000 Assyrian troops in one night (2 Kings 19:35)”
Jesus did not need Peter’s sword!
At that hour (this may be as late as 1 or 2 AM) Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
The ultimate cowardly hypocrisy- they were too afraid to do it in daylight in full view of the crowd. Evil men need layers of darkness and layers of help.
Then all the disciples left him and fled.
As the last day of His life begins…He is left all alone….. it is difficult to put words to the sadness I feel when I think of all that is happening…….
But even more so..
I sleep away my opportunities to pray…
I flee when the attacks come….
I don’t do what God wants me to do when it is seemingly ‘hard’…..

So we end a Thursday of turmoil..... I am going to post a Good Friday timeline just after midnight tonight... if you want to pick this up EARLY tomorrow morning... you can follow Good Friday by the hour.... thanks for putting up with my long posts.... God has stirred me up.

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