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The Kindness of Joseph of Arimathea

“And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Sanhedrin (but did not consent to the death of Jesus) who was from Arimathea and was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He took it down from the cross and wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock where no one had ever lain.”
Luke 23

We tend to think of the Jewish Elite of Jesus day as all villains, but Joseph was an exception. The key phrase is “he was waiting for the kingdom of God.” Everyone else sought the kingdom of man, not of God, as they claimed. Joseph waited for the city not made by human hands. He took down the body of Jesus, carefully wrapped it, and placed it into his own tomb where no one had laid. Despite the fact Jesus would soon rise and have no use for either, I doubt our Lord would forget this measure of kindness from Joseph, the one who waited for Him.

Today as I reflect on the death of my mama, I want to thank the folks at Sanderson Funeral Homes for taking such good care of my mama’s body. For taking good care of it and laying it in a tomb no one has lain in. For although I know she has no further need of it, I will not forget the care and kindness they have taken with the one so dear to me. I also hope that they all, like our friend Joseph, are waiting for the One who is the Resurrection and the Life and long for His appearing.

I believe in Resurrection.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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The Cup of Wrath

cup of wrath“Jesus drank a cup of wrath without mercy, that we might drink a cup of mercy without wrath.”
– J. Oswald Sanders

 

Imagine that all of your deeds have been laid bare. Every evil thought, every harsh word, every wicked deed, every selfish desire, and any other thing you have ever done that is wrong. They also list every time someone cried out in need and you ignored it, every good deed that you could have done for someone but refused to do.

As the list is read, a cup nearby fills with the wrath deserved for such crimes. A lifetime of unpunished wrongdoing fills it to the brim and it foams with pain and loss and despair. Pain you deserve for all the evil you have done and all the good you refused to do for others.

Now imagine that God takes the cup and drinks it. All of it.

There is no more evil. There is no more pain. There is no more loss or suffering.

Because he drank it all. It is all gone. He has taken the punishment reserved for you into Himself.

And He has paid it in full.

You do not have to imagine it. He already did it.

For all who believe. It. Is. Finished.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”
– Saul of Tarsus to the Church at Rome, circa 57 A.D.

 

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2015 in Soteriology, Uncategorized

 

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Curtain Call

Hamlet Cast17231The picture you see here is of a curtain call. The curtain call is the moment at the end of a play when all the actors come out from behind the curtain to take a final bow. I chose this particular curtain call as an object lesson, because this curtain call is from the play Hamlet. Why is that significant?

Because just a moment ago, nearly all of these people were dead.

For those familiar with William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, the story ends with a climatic duel that ends up causing the deaths of just about every single character. The very last scene see Hamlet’s friend bursting on the scene to find a castle hall full of the dead. The story ends, everyone dies.

But lo! The curtain call! Everyone is alive again! It turns out this play was just a work of imagination, just a brief lesson in miniature, and everyone is actually OK. Death was not the end for these people.

But real life does not work that way. Or does it? What does the bard say?

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII and Macbeth Act V, Scene V

Even the bard agrees, life is a play. The only thing I would disagree with is that last bit. The tale we are a part of is significant.

The Creator God is our Playwright. He gives us all a part to play and a job to do. A man, as the Bard says, might play many parts in his life. Everyone has entrances and exits onto the stage. The entrance is birth. The exit is death.

And yet, death is not the end. There is the Curtain Call. We call it the Resurrection.

It will be a day when all who belong to Christ who have mourned the dead and felt the sting of its loss will awake to find it was all just a play and that the deaths they suffered did not last. Everyone who was dead is alive once again!

The beloved elder cut down in Act I holds hands with the young man who died in the battle of Act V. Abraham, Paul, William Wilberforce, and Billy Graham will all take a bow and toss their crowns at the feet of the Great Playwright upon the glassy sea.

Then there will be the Cast Party called the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, and nothing waiting but endless paradise.

Play your part well. The curtain soon falls.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Soteriology

 

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Do Not Stop Speaking


jesus.heal_Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Mark 7:31-37

God does not do everything in a public forum. We offer a public invitation to repent and submit to Jesus Christ in churches every Sunday, but in reality people are not required to walk down the aisle to be saved. Some people have very public salvation experiences, and some are very private ones. Some are saved while the preacher is speaking, while others are saved once home and meditating on the things said. There is no one experience that is better than another.

This man was healed privately. Many of Jesus’ miracles, such as His feeding of the 5,000 men, were very public. Others, like this one, were very private. What connects them all is what happened afterwards.

Acts 4:1-22

Peter and John were threatened with prison, violence and death. Their response? “We cannot stop speaking about what we’ve seen and heard.”

They couldn’t stop. They were compelled. They were driven to speak about Jesus.

When Jesus touches someone, they cannot stop speaking about it. Even if Jesus tells them not to speak, they cannot help themselves.

What about you? How often do you speak about His love? How often do you proclaim His good news to others?

No one is stopping us. There are not yet soldiers in the streets to arrest us, beat us, or kill us. And yet we are stopped by sneers and ridicule, or simply indifference.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

We hold back because we want to please men. Even in the Church, a dangerous practice of pleasing men in a thin veneer called “seeker churches.” These people try to be “seeker” sensitive, not being overbearing towards those who come to their church seeking God.

Except, no Lost soul is seeking Him, for it is written:

“No one understands; no one seeks for God.”
Romans 3:11

Men do not seek God. God seeks out men to save them. The world has so blinded itself with sin that it is oblivious to the coming Judgement. We are the watchmen called to sound the trumpet and warn the people.

Ezekiel 33:1-9

We are required to sound the trumpet and warn the Lost. God will hold us accountable for every soul we had a chance to tell but did not. Every soul we tell that does not repent and heed our warning we are guiltless of. We cannot convince people of the truth, for it is also written:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1st Corinthians 2:14

In his natural, sinful state, humans cannot understand, cannot see the beauty of the Gospel. In fact, it’s complete nonsense. Only God can change that heart of stone to a heart of flesh, but He often uses us to do it.

Titus 2:1-10

“Adorn” here means to make alluring or attractive. So in a sense we are to make the Gospel more appealing to the Lost, but not by downplaying sin and Judgement, or by working around penal substitution, but by living according to the teachings of Christ in every way, showing the world that God’s way not only works, but is the best way to live.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
1st Peter 3:13-17

No one is saying go grab a sandwich board and stand on the street screaming at people to “turn or burn.” What the Bible says is to live a godly life and revere Christ as holy. Then, when people inquire as to why you live and love thus, you share the Gospel. We do not do this harshly or in judgement, but as dying men to dying men.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.
Colossians 4:5

Don’t stay silent. Be wise among unbelievers and look for opportunities. If you see one open up, you go for it!

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2015 in Christology

 

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Demons, Men, or Whatever

20070810p2_01A few nights ago I fell asleep on the couch in my office. When I awoke, I could not move. A sense of dread came over me. I felt invisible hands tighten around my throat and I could not breathe. A voice in my head whispered, “I hate you. I have always hated you. I’ve tried to kill you so many times. Tonight’s the night. Tonight you die.

“Now a few friends of mine would immediately leap to “It was a demon! You were under attack!” But of course I know better. First of all, I’m pretty much a strict cessationist and I don’t mind who knows that. Second of all, I’ve dealt with sleep paralysis most of my life and I can easily recognize it when it happens now.

Despite that, when the invisible hands tightened around my throat and the malign voice whispered deadly threats, I prayed silently but seriously that God my Father intervene and save me.

And He did. No sooner had I finished the prayer than did the hands release me, the voice was silenced, and I drifted back to sleep again. God heard my cry and rescued me from my peril, of that I have no doubt. It’s what He does. Rescue people.

Now my certain friends become puzzled. “If you do not believe in ongoing demonic possession or oppression or sign gifts, and were sure it was just sleep paralysis, why then did you pray?”

To answer this, I quote one of my all time favorite hymns, Master the Tempest is Raging:

Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will.

The stage of the hymn is set when the disciples are out at sea in a storm while Jesus is sleeping. They awaken Him, begging that He calm the storm and save them. Many scholars have debated whether the storm was just a storm or whether it was really sent by “the prince of the air,” that is the Devil.

To the hymn writer, though, the source of the storm is irrelevant. What matters is that no matter what it’s source, it cannot destroy the Creator and it must obey His will.

So was I attacked by a demon a few nights ago? I seriously doubt it. Was I in danger? Possibly, we really don’t know a lot about sleep paralysis. Much of it is in a person’s head, but there are physiological responses to the stimuli and it is possible that an episode of sleep paralysis could trigger a secondary health episode of far greater consequence.

But rest assured, demons, men, or whatever it was, my God can handle it.

And that’s why I prayed.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2015 in Theology

 

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The Relationship

Man and woman outdoors clasping hands, close-up

Connect. For the love of God, connect.

There is a person I know whom God has put on my heart, an unbeliever so far from Christ it seems impossible she could be saved.

But all things are possible for Him.

This person speaks out often against religion and is committed to atheism. I’ve been praying and waiting for the right moment to speak, for speaking at the wrong moment can spell disaster.

Recently, this person said something and the Spirit said, “Speak. Speak now.”

The person said, “Religion is destroying the world. People are ruined by it and they don’t need it or any other silly superstitions.”

I said, “So you have no beliefs at all beyond the natural? For you it’s just survival of the fittest? Your immediate needs and that’s it?”

“No,” the person replied, “I do believe in karma, that people end up getting what they deserve.”

“So? That’s a religion. There’s no “god” or whatever, but you believe in something more. Something beyond the natural, because science says that’s bunk. There’s just what’s in front of you.”

“Well, I’d call it a belief system. It’s not a religion.” the person explained.

“Oh, then we may have different definitions of religion then. Sounds like your definition is like rules and rituals and so forth.” I said.

“That’s right.” the person clarified.

“In that case I’m not religious either and I agree with you as well. What I am a part of is about a relationship. I believe there is a Being who transcends everything and Who created everything. I believe the most important thing in a person’s life is to have a relationship with this Person.”

“Oh,” the person said, “Well that’s different, that’s good then.”

For all the miles this person has to go before they are even close to responding to the Gospel, we moved an inch today. But I praise God, because due to our human nature, that person shouldn’t have moved at all.

But that’s not why I am posting this. I am posting this because as I drove home something hit me.

I am religious. I observe rules and rituals. I have not been pursuing God as a relationship.

A fire that had long lay dormant within me kindled, and I began to weep. I pray every day, but how long had it been since I was so enraptured with His presence that I had to be torn away from it? I read the Bible almost every day, but how long had it been since I opened my Bible with eagerness the way a wife embraces her husband after he has been on a long journey?

Too long.

Takeaways:

  1. Engage the Lost. You will learn as much from bouncing what you believe off them as anything else. We Christians are far too good at patting each other on the back.
  2. Forget your problems. God actually commands this of us. We should focus on our relationship with Him. All good works will flow from that relationship. We don’t do good to know God, we do good because we know Him.
  3. Check your affections. How much affection do you have for Christ? This is something we should check on a daily basis as we should with our spouses.
  4. Relationships are of highest importance. God first, and others second, but for the love of our Lord, connect. I feel like I’ve kept everyone, including God, at a distance. Do not do this. God is all about relationships. That is what matters.
 
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Posted by on August 19, 2015 in Sanctification

 

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Not Safe, but Good

I grow tired of people who believe in a milksop God and a milksop Jesus. God is dynamic and powerful and dangerous and loving and deadly and mysterious and violent and playful and serious and funny (yes, funny).

God reveals Himself to us in His Word. He pulls no punches. The Bible is R-rated. He makes people alive, and He kills people. He raises up nations and leaders and champions, and He tears down civilizations and drives leaders to madness and allows champions to fall into ruin.

Along the way God makes no apologies for His actions and makes few explanations. He demands obedience and unyielding fealty to His name.

For this reason, many doubt His claim to love us and His goodness. Perhaps there would be cause for this if not for this:

“For a good man someone might dare to die. But while we were yet sinners, He died for us.”

This immeasurably powerful, all knowing, all consuming God who demands perfection, does not tolerate uncleanness and hates sin with a perfect hatred. This God put aside His rights and came to live among us in the flesh. He provided the perfect life Himself that we failed to provide. He died the death He declared we should die for us.

“So in this way God loved the world. He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

And He defines just what that is.

“This is eternal life. That they know you intimately, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

He wants us. He wants us to be with Him such that He died to bring us close to Him. There can be no greater love, indeed He says:

“Mortal man knows no greater love than this. That he lay down his life for his friends.”

He calls me friend. I am God’s friend.

So when my God does something I do not understand, even when He takes life or chooses to allow life to pass away from someone. Even if He slays me, still will I trust in Him.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
– The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

 

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