Sunday, April 27, 2014

Jesus Cursed

Jesus Cursed
April 28, 2014
Jeremiah 8:13  "I will take away their harvest, declares the Lord.  There will be no grapes on the vine.  There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither.  What I have given them will be taken from them."

Jesus cursed.  No, He didn't yell obscenities; He pronounced judgement on....a tree.  He was walking along the road with some of His disciples when He saw a fig tree.  Jesus walked up to the fig tree intending to find fruit on it, possibly hoping for a small snack.  The tree should have offered something to Jesus, but it was barren and fruitless.  Frustrated with its performance, He cursed the tree because of it's lack of fruit.  Days went by and the same group of people walked passed the same fig tree.  They all noticed in astonishment the tree had withered up and died.  It's a small miracle in comparison to everything else Jesus did, but still quite significant.

I used to read this story and hope to replicate the cursing and withering, calling out judgment against people and things that frustrated me over the years, but alas it's never worked out that way.  It's not a scenario Jesus actually wants us to replicate; it is the fulfillment of prophecy as well as introduction of more prophecy for the future.  In fact, a thousand years earlier, the prophets Jeremiah & Micah introduced the cursing of the fig tree story.  (I encourage you to really read the additional scriptures for study below).  When Jesus saw the tree it wasn't really time for full fruit, it was only time for "pre" fruit.  A fig tree creates little "nubs" right before it is about to bear its full fruit.  The nubs are actually edible.  Jesus was hoping to see it's "pre" fruit but when it didn't have any, Jesus knew it would never produce fruit like it was supposed to produce.  He chastised the tree for not bearing any "pre" fruit and condemned it to die.

While it is just a tree, He was introducing a prophecy in regard to what He will do to you and me in the future.  If we, as Christians, do not bear the fruit of righteousness, like we are supposed to, then He will condemn us to die.  His example in real life was a replica of what Jeremiah foretold about.  The cursing of the fig tree was and is a real life simile of what will happen in the future.  Jesus was speaking prophecy without telling His disciples what He was talking about.  They thought it was about the fig tree.  But it carries much more significance than figs.

You and I are supposed to bear fruit.  The Lord is watching and when the time has come for fruit to appear, there had better be at least a hint of "pre" fruit, something to demonstrate the future abundant harvest of fruit in our lives.  If the Lord does not see fruit in our lives, we may be condemned to die.  Just like the fig tree was made to produce figs, you and I are made to produce fruit for the Lord when we become Christians.  Sadly, millions of people go to church and from outward appearances seem to be Christians.  But the Lord will judge them for their fruit in the end.  It's not enough to simply be saved from Hell; we are asked to bear fruit, the fruit that comes from receiving salvation.  If there is no fruit, then the argument could be made that salvation wasn't achieved.  The Lord said, "what I have given them will be taken from them."

All fruit is the evidence of healthy natural progression both physically and spiritually. Don't be a barren fig tree; figure out what fruit the Lord expects to see in your life.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Song of Songs 2:13, Jeremiah 8:4-13, Jeremiah 29:15-19, Hosea 9:10 & 16, Hosea 10:12, Micah 7:1-4, Matt 21:18-22 & 33-46, Mark 11:12-21, Eph 5:8-10

Sunday, April 20, 2014

After Easter

After Easter
April 21, 2014
1 Corinthians 6:20  ". . . you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."

Easter is a wonderful celebration of the salvation received as a direct result of the resurrection.  Jesus was crucified, was dead and buried.  He was raised from the dead and sits at the right hand of the Lord.  He is alive and well, having successfully completed everything necessary to cleanse the sins of all men, once and for all.  We may now have eternal salvation, being washed fully in the blood that Jesus shed on that cross.  But now what?  What's next?  What comes after Easter?

Just as Easter is a day to celebrate the resurrection from the dead and eternal life for you and me, every day thereafter is a chance to celebrate something else.  Every day after Easter is a chance to demonstrate our thankfulness for the work of Jesus on the cross.  Scripture says that if you want to partake in eternal salvation, the benefit of Jesus' work on the cross, then you belong to Him.  Your life is not your own, because you were bought at a price.  It cost Jesus His life upon the cross, and now you and I belong to Him.  This seems a little like a slave but it is quite the contrary.  A slave has no choice in the matter.  You can choose to have salvation or not, but if you choose salvation then you agree to something else.  If you accept the work of Jesus on the cross to benefit your life, then your life in return gets to benefit Jesus.  It is a small token of our appreciation for the work He did for us.

So what does this entail?  What does it mean to belong to Him?  Scripture lays a few new rules because of the new work on the cross.  Before the cross, the Lord's presence only resided inside His temple and only the High Priest could enter that presence.  As a result of the work on the cross, Jesus cleansed our hearts from sin so the Lord's presence may now rest inside our hearts.  No longer is the Lord's presence limited to a temple, because our bodies are now the temple!  As such, our lives, even our physical beings carry the physical presence of the Lord.  Our bodies belong to Him since that is where He now resides!  We are to honor the Lord with our bodies; this is the celebration after Easter.  In Scripture this is defined with the basics of avoiding sexual sin, because that is the worst case scenario.  But there is so much more to it than that.

If your body is the temple of the Lord's presence, and you belong to Him, then there is some defining that needs to take place.  What does it mean to you that your body is the temple of the Lord?  It should mean that you are now the physical representation of Christ on this earth in front of others.  This reflects how you dress, how you talk, how you act, etc.  I'm not placing rules for you to live by, but I am suggesting a full personal audit needs to take place.  Do your eating habits reflect what the Lord would desire for His temple?  Does your choice of words reflect what the Lord would desire for His temple?  Do your viewing and listening habits reflect what the Lord would desire for His temple?  Chances are, all of us could use a good temple cleaning, making sure our lives and bodies reflect what the Lord would want for His temple.  If you aren't sure what this means specifically for you, then consider prayerfully asking Him for His opinion.  He has a very strong opinion and would love to share it with you if you'd only ask Him.  Your body is the Temple; it is your obligation as a Christian to use it as such.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  John 2:20-22, 1 Cor 6:12-20

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Branches

Palm Branches
April 14, 2014
John 12:13  "The They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, 'Hosanna!'"

Palm Sunday is typically the Sunday preceding Easter Sunday.  It is marked by the usage of palms, or palm branches, similar to the ones used when Jesus made His entrance into the city of Jerusalem the week before He was crucified.  In the record, Jesus entered the city while riding on a donkey and the people spread their cloaks and assorted palm branches on the ground underneath Him to walk upon.  But there is so much more to understanding the story than just the waving of palm branches.

If you were a history buff, you might explore what palm branches really meant.  The Egyptians used palm branches during the burial process of someone important, to symbolize life after death, or eternal life.  The Romans used palm branches to signify victory.  You would lay the palm branches down upon the ground for the victor to walk upon.  The scene gets even more complicated to understand when you add the fact that Jesus rode on a donkey and the people also shouted the word "Hosanna."  A horse was ridden by a king through the city streets when he wanted to emphasize a battle (either one coming or one just ending).  A king might have ridden a donkey through the city streets when he wanted to emphasize peace (either celebrating a time of peace or the dawning of a new era).   To top it off, the word "hosanna" means to save urgently or imminently, in the context it was used (not something shouted during the dawning of peace-time).

So many images come to mind when you understand the meanings of the symbolism involved.  Remember the Israelites spent 400 years in Egypt as slaves, so they understood the Egyptian burial practices, using palm branches.  At the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was also occupied by the Romans, so they understood a king's ride through the city streets.  Jesus rode on a donkey because He wanted to show He was not a military threat.  But the people were shouting Hosanna, or "save us now" while waving palm branches and then putting them at His feet (as if a military victor).  This creates a dichotomy in the story. They were shouting for Him to save them but He was coming in peace and yet already victorious at the same time.

Jesus' entrance into the city was, and is, recorded as a "Triumphant Entry."  He triumphed, though, not during a military battle, but one over eternal life.  BUT He had not died upon the cross or rose from the dead at this point in the story.  His ride represented the dawning of a new era, one of peace, one of soon coming victory (that required a battle) over death and bringing eternal life.  His ride represented He was, and is, the King and He was bringing them salvation, imminently.  When you understand the story this way, it might change your imagery of the event a little bit, creating more appreciation for what Jesus was knowingly about to do, leading into the days and hours before His crucifixion.

I challenge you to close your eyes for a moment, and imagine you were there when Jesus rode on the donkey into Jerusalem.  Image yourself waving a palm branch in the air and shouting "Hosanna."  Imagine just as He is about to pass by, you quickly bow in front of Him, placing your palm branch on the ground for Him to walk upon.  As He passes by, in front of you, imagine Him starring into the crowd and then down at you, seeing you prostrate with your palm branch before Him.  That stare, His glance in your direction, seeing you place your palm branch under His feet, represented He was bringing salvation just for you!

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Lev 23:39-41, Psalm 118:22-27, John 12:12-16

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Way Too Slow

Way Too Slow
April 7, 2014
2 Peter 3:9  "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

The Lord moves at the speed of a snail sometimes, it seems.  We pray for something or are expecting the fulfillment of a promise and it feels like a lifetime of a wait.  I know there are many of you who are waiting on the Lord only to think He has forgotten about you.  I can assure you this is not the case.  The Lord has not forgotten about you and the Lord is NOT moving too slow in bringing about the resolution to your situation.  The Lord is purposeful in everything.  He is extremely calculated in His response time, especially in the fulfillment of His promises.

If you re-read the original story of Noah and his giant boat, you'll find a lot of promises from the Lord.  The Lord promised He would wipe out everyone from the face of the earth because of their wicked ways.  The Lord promised He would save Noah and his family from the annihilating flood.  As you re-read the account, notice the time-frame involved.  From the first promise of the annihilation to the first rain drop, it was 100 years.  The Bible never said it actually took Noah 100 years to build the boat, maybe the Lord was giving the inhabitants of Earth an appropriate opportunity to repent.  Remember the Lord is not wanting anyone to perish, as the Apostle Peter writes!  When Peter said the Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, Peter was referring to the Lord coming back to end the sin of the world, the second coming of Christ.  It was a promise to annihilate and a promise to save from annihilation, just like in Noah's time.

Noah's 100 years, though it seems like more than a lifetime, was about 10% of his life.  Translate that to you and me, and it comes out to be about 8 years based on our current expected life span.  If you've been waiting less than 8 years for something, you waited less than Noah.  But your waiting time has nothing to do with WHAT you are waiting for, it has to do with WHY the Lord is making you wait.  The Lord's main concern is the salvation of all mankind and the specific role your life plays in that master plan.  If giving you what you are waiting for now hinders His master plan, then He will wait!  That's right, the Lord will wait as long as necessary to execute all the details of His master plan and that includes the situation you are waiting through right now.

If you think the Lord is way too slow, then think again.  He is not slow in executing His plan, He is perfect because of His intent.  He is not willing to change the plan for someone's salvation just because you and I get impatient.  You might be waiting because it just isn't time yet!  Maybe you think it is time for you but it could be premature because of the role you play in someone else's life.  During the waiting time there is opportunity to watch the Lord at work.  Though you may not perceive the Lord working, remember that He is not willing anyone should perish.  Be thankful it seems He is slow sometimes, because He gave you and me plenty of time, too.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 6-7, 2 Peter 3