Knowing Something By Heart May Not Be The Same As Believing With All Your Heart

bible book
[All Scripture is from the E.S.V. unless otherwise noted]

Guinness Book

Have you ever gone to a Sunday morning church service when a “Speed-Reading Contest” breaks out? You are expecting a sermon from the Good Book [the Bible], but the people seem only interested in getting into the Guinness Book of World Records as the church with the fastest Sunday service on record. This, at least, was what I thought as a teenager. I remember going to church with my dad and hearing the same liturgy every week on “speed dial” and wondering if the people even understood what they were reciting by heart. Liturgical services are not wrong in and of themselves. In fact, liturgies are rich in doctrinal truth and remind us of both the majesty and grace of God. The danger lies when these rich biblical truths, practiced in traditional liturgical churches, become nothing more than rote exercises to be done as quickly as possible, so that the church-goers may satisfy their “obligations” to God and get on with real life.

Communion2good friday6

Christ's Power Sprit

Christians have recently gone through Holy Week, in remembrance of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life; especially Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. These are three very important days of the Christian Liturgical Calendar. On Maundy Thursday, we remember Jesus giving His disciples, including us, a New Commandment [See John 13:34] and a New Covenant in His blood [See Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, I Corinthians 11:25, Hebrews 8:6-13]. Jesus also changes the meaning of Passover to be known to His followers as His Last Supper, also known as the Eucharist [“the giving of thanks“], Communion and the Lord’s Supper. In Luke 22:19, Jesus tells His disciples [past and present], “Do this in remembrance of Me.” The Apostle Paul also gives instructions regarding the Lord’s Supper:

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also He took the cup after supper [the Cup of Redemption] and said, ‘This cup is the New Covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” [I Corinthians 11:23-26].

On Good Friday, Christians remember how Jesus became the perfect sacrifice by dying on the cross for the sins of all who believe Him to be their Savoir and the Savior of the world:

Christ Crucified

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” [Hebrews 9:11-14].

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” [I Peter 2:24-25].

angels and women at empty tomb

On Resurrection Sunday, commonly known as Easter, we celebrate Jesus conquering sin and death by rising from the dead on that first Resurrection Sunday.

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they [the women] went to the tomb, taking spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He [Jesus] is not here, but has risen” [Luke 24:1-5].

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [I Corinthians 15:54-57].

“He [Jesus] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him [on the cross]” [Colossians 2:15].

imagesCAPBEZO8

It is important to note here, that according to the Christian Liturgical Calendar, Easter is not celebrated during one Sunday, but there are seven Sundays in Easter. This is because Jesus appeared to His disciples for forty days after His Resurrection:

“He [Jesus] presented Himself alive to them [disciples] after His suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking of the kingdom of God. And while staying with them He ordered them to wait for the promise of the Father, which, He said, ‘you heard from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” [Acts 1:3-6]. [Note that the three Persons of the Trinity are mentioned.]

risen lord

After forty days, Jesus ascended back to His Father. This is called “Ascension Sunday” according to the Christian Liturgical Calendar:

“So when they had come together, they asked Him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when He had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven” [Acts 1:6-11].

Acts 1:6-7 tells Jesus’ followers not to stare at the sky, waiting for Jesus to return. Instead, Christians are to be busy carrying out the Great Commission, by spreading the GOOD NEWS to all nations. Jesus says the same thing in Matthew 28:19-20:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Father, Son and Holy Spirit 2HS on men and women

Note that Triune God [Father, Son and Holy Spirit] is also mentioned in the above Scripture. Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:3-6 are just two of the many Scriptures that speak of the Triune God. That is why Christians who follow the Liturgical Calendar celebrate “Trinity Sunday”, which falls on May 31st in 2015. But, before then, on May 24th, Christians celebrate “Pentecost Sunday: On the first Pentecost [Jewish Holy Day], Ten days after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, the disciples receive the promised Holy Spirit and the Christian Church is born [Act 2]. Christians of the 1st Century through the 21st Century have the same Holy Spirit to help them spread the GOOD NEW of Jesus Christ by teaching, preaching and living a life empowered by Christ’s Holy Spirit of love, mercy, compassion and grace.

banana split love

After studying God’s Word, especially the Scripture passages above, I now understand the meaning of what was being recited every Sunday, at the church I grew up in. I not only know the words by heart, I also believe them with all my heart.

Four Acclamations from the Roman Missal in English:

*Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”

“Dying You destroyed our death, rising You restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.”

“When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim Your death, Lord Jesus, until You come in glory.”

“Lord, by Your cross and resurrection, You have set us free. You are the Savior of the world.”

a. christ trusting

Each one of these “Acclamations” is known as “The Mystery of Faith” and each one is overflowing with the unfathomable grace of God. It is impossible for me to fully wrap my mind around these ancient Christian Truths. How can I just breeze through them as though I were a child reciting the alphabet, going as fast as I can and wondering, “What is an ‘el-lem-en-no-pee’ anyway?” I need to slow down and meditate [chew] on these words and their rich meaning and wait for them to sink deeply into my soul and my heart of hearts.

Christ's Return

For me, it is easier to grasp Jesus’ death and resurrection, than His Second Coming. There are dozens of movies depicting Jesus’ death and resurrection, but not much has been done with His coming again. Perhaps it is because His return has not happened yet. For me, it is hard to imagine Jesus coming again. What is it going to be like? The Bible doesn’t give us a clear picture or else it doesn‘t for me. But even if it did, I do not think my human mind would be able to comprehend it all. I believe it will be beyond my wildest dreams. I also don’t understand why in the Book of Luke [17:37b] Jesus states “The end is near” and the Book of Revelation, He says, “I am coming soon” [3:11, 22:7, 22:12, 22:7] and other Scriptures [Philippians 4:5b] state “the Lord is coming soon” and that “The end of the world is coming soon” [I Peter 4:7b]. Obviously, the Lord Jesus has not come yet to establish a New Heaven and a New Earth. There is still pain and sin and mourning and death and tears and the ruler of this world [Satan] is still among us. When I don’t understand something, no matter how much I try [For example, I will never fully understand the Book of Revelation], that’s the time I rely on my faith in God and believe with all my heart that His promises are trustworthy and true. I don’t have to know when Jesus is coming again. Instead, I believe that He is coming. Because I believe Jesus is coming again, I live as though Jesus is coming soon. I believe II Peter has an answer for me concerning Jesus’ return and I need to accept it by faith:

a lesson on waiting

“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder…that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’… But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance…But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” [II Peter 3:1, 3b-4, 8-9, 13].

Jesua, heart, sand

I don’t know when, but I believe with all my heart that Jesus is coming again. Maybe He’s waiting for you to believe in Him with all your heart, too.

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“For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him [JESUS] will not be disappointed’” [Romans 10:11; N.A.S].

“But, as it has been written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him’” [I Corinthians 2:9].

[Also read I Corinthians 15:51-56 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Revelation 21:3-5b]

dad and baby

When I was a teenager I left the traditional liturgical church because I was not much of a “fast reader” or “fast speaker”. Four decades later, I have learned not to “throw out the baby with the baptismal water”, so to speak. I am truly thankful to God for my parents and my childhood church for teaching me about God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I Know He Lives!

The Lyd

Lydia

[Next Post in the beginning of May]

Tasting is Believing Through the Eyes of Faith

bread and stones

One Easter morning, one of my friends sent text message to her aunt, along with a photo of the rolls she had just taken out of the oven saying, “Christ Has Risen and so have the rolls!” She showed me the photo on her phone. The morning sun glistened on these delectably looking, mouth-watering, perfectly risen golden rolls. She used her mom’s recipe, who was her aunt’s sister. I am sure her aunt believed that she was looking at the rolls her niece had just baked and not looking at stones or some other round objects. I bet she could even smell and taste them from memory. She had no reason to doubt her niece. Still, she had to have faith that her niece was telling the truth because she wasn’t with her niece to see and smell and feel and taste and hear the “Mmms” from the guests eating the rolls firsthand. In a way, believing that God raised Jesus from the dead takes that same kind of faith in the Father fulfilling His Promise to us. Jesus has risen! Jesus has risen indeed! We were not there to see Him rise, but we have faith that it is the “Gospel Truth!” This brings us great joy – “MEGA-JOY”, as a former pastor of mine described the joy Christians share during Christmas and Resurrection Sunday and every day in between.

bible preacher-teacher

Jesus rising from the dead is a Fulfilled Promise I accept by faith. However, some Christians try to present the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as a “proven fact” and “more” than something we believe because God says so in His Word. During my first three or four years of my Christian walk, I heard the same sermon every Easter. I even had a tract about why the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a proven historical fact (I think written by Josh McDowell) and not only God’s fulfilled promise Christians believe by faith. Every Easter Sunday, I heard the same sermon about the “Swoon Theory” and the “Hallucination Theory” and the “Impersonation Theory” and the “Spiritual Resurrection Theory” and the “Wrong Tomb Theory” and the “Stolen Body Theory” and how all these theories are bogus. I heard the pastor refute every theory with the help of psychology, biology and Scripture. People who only attended church on Christmas and Easter must have thought the pastor had a very limited sermon repertoire.

book of hebrews

But, what about FAITH? What about believing in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ because the Bible says it happened? If the Resurrection of Jesus Christ could be proven by historical artifacts, psychology and biology or any other human intellectual rationale, we would not need faith. Hebrews 11:1 teaches, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Verse 6 adds, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

Christ's Power Sprit

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a MIRACLE. A “miracle” is “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by nature or any scientific laws and is thereby considered to be the work of a divine agency (‘the miracle of rising from the grave’)” [from a Google search]. Christians believe that this “divine agency” is the Triune God. I believe in miracles and that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a miracle that cannot be scientifically or otherwise humanly proven. I believe that Jesus rose again by the faith God has given me to believe in Him and to believe His Word, the Bible, to be true.

This is what the Gospels say about the First Resurrection Sunday:

angels and women at empty tomb

The women disciples of Jesus are the first to discover the empty tomb and to see the Risen Lord. They go to the tomb early Sunday morning and find the huge stone rolled away from the entrance and the tomb empty. The angels tell Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome that Jesus has risen from the dead, just as He said He would! The angels declare, “WHY DO YOU LOOK FOR THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD? HE IS NOT HERE; HE HAS RISEN!” They run to tell Peter and James and they also go to see the empty tomb. (See Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10). These women were the first to proclaim the GOOD NEWS!

Jesus with MaryMagdenlena

Mary Magdalene, the woman Jesus healed of seven demons, is the first to see Jesus alive! Mary stays outside the tomb, while Peter and the others have gone home. She sees someone she thinks is a gardener and pleads with Him to tell her where Jesus’ body has been taken. It is when Jesus says, “Mary” that she recognizes that it is Jesus! (See Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18). Jesus meets the other women on their way back to the tomb. He instructs them to go and tell His disciples He will meet them in Galilee (See Matthew 28:9-10).

Guars at Jesus' tomb

When the guards who were stationed at the tomb reported what had happened, the chief priests bribe them to say the disciples stole the body. They also promise to make sure they would not get into trouble with their superiors. The rumor of the stolen body spread among the Jews (Matthew 28:11-15).

Disciple on road

Jesus appears to two disciples and to Simon Peter. Mark briefly mentions this encounter, while Luke goes into detail of how Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples do not recognize Him while they walk and listen to Him explain how all the Scriptures point to the Messiah. It is only when they are eating and He breaks bread with them that they recognize Him, and He vanishes. They go and tell the other disciples that “THE LORD HAS RISEN!” JESUS CHRIST HAS RISEN INDEED! They also tell of Jesus appearing to Simon [Peter] (See Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35)

Disciple Thomas

Jesus appears to ten disciples, in Thomas’ absence. He says to them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus exhorts them for not believing the reports of His resurrection. He begins to prepare them to preach the Gospel – the GOOD NEWS – and build His Church. When Thomas returns and hears Jesus had been with the disciples in his absence, he says he will not believe it unless he sees and touches Jesus wounds for himself. (See Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25). Eight days later, Jesus appears to the disciples when Thomas is present. He tell Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (See John 20:26-27). Thomas is the first disciple to procaim, “MY LORD AND MY GOD!”

jesus has risen

“JESUS HAS RISEN! JESUS HAS RISEN INDEED!” I cannot prove it, but I believe it with all my heart because, just like freshly baked rolls, I have tasted God’s goodness in saving a sinner like me.

 

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“Taste and see that the Lord is good;Blessed is the [person] who            takes refuge in Him.”
(Psalm 34:8)

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and [anyone] who believes in Me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

 

Joyful Jesus

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

(By Charles Wesley)

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say: Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing ye heav’ns, and earth reply: Alleluia!

risen lord

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death is now your sting? Alleluia!
Dying once He all doth save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Christ's cross defeated devil

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids Him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise, Alleluia!

imagesCAM8G25Y

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (See John 20:29). Do you believe “Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again” for you?

A Joyous Resurrection Sunday to You All!

The Lyd

Lydia

[I will be taking a few weeks off from blogging, so that you can catch up on your reading.]

“Forgiveness Friday!”

forgiveness

“GOOD” Friday is the most solemn day on the Christian Liturgical Calendar. It is the day we remember Christ’s sufferings and death on the cross. It was a day like no other. It was the day that changed the world. It was that day that changed me forever. Why do Christians call this day “GOOD”? On the first GOOD Friday, “…God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the FORGIVENESS of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ” (Ephesians 1:7-9). Why is GOOD Friday GOOD? The answer is found in one word: FORGIVENESS!

good friday6

On the first “Good” Friday, Judas tried to undo his betrayal of Jesus by returning the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests, but they would not accept the bounty they put on Christ‘s head.. Judas threw the money into the temple and went out to a lonely place and hanged himself. The chief priests decided to use the money for the “Potter’s Field”, a graveyard for strangers (Matthew 27:3-10).

a spirit of truth

The chief priests took Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler of Judaea. Pilate asks Jesus if He is “the King of the Jews” and Jesus says, “It is as you say”. Jesus stops answering questions regarding the accusations against Him. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Pilate about Himself and His kingdom. He tells Pilate He has come to “bear witness to the truth. “ Pilate asks the age-old question, “What is truth?”. Jesus answered that question for His disciples, in John 14:6: “I am the way and THE TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Pilate finds no reason to put Jesus to death, but the chief priests press him. (Matthew 27:2, 11-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-38)

When Pilate heard that Jesus was a Galilean, he jumped at the opportunity to “pass the buck” and sends Jesus to Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee. Herod is in Jerusalem at the time. Herod wants Jesus to perform miracles for him, but Jesus keeps silent. Herod’s soldiers mock Jesus, dress Him in a purple robe and Herod sends Him back to Pilate. (Luke 23:6-12)

barrabbas

Pilate tries to release Jesus because he did not see Jesus guilty of death. In the Gospel of Matthew, it tells of Pilate’s wife having a disturbing dream about Jesus and warns Pilate not to have anything to do with Him. According to the custom of releasing a prisoner during the Passover Feast, Pilate tries to persuade the crowd that has gathered outside to release Jesus. The chief priests incite the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas, a murderer and insurrectionist, and shout for Jesus to be crucified. The Gospel of Luke records that “their voices prevailed”. John’s Gospel tells how Jesus is scourged and given a crown of thorns, and Pilate presents Him to the crowd, saying, “Behold, the Man!” This does not appease the crowd. They shout even louder, “CRUCIFY! CRUCIFY!” Matthew records Pilate washes his hands and gives over the bloodguilt to the crowd. He releases Barabbas and hands Jesus over to be crucified. (Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-19:16)

CARRY CROSS

The entire Roman cohort takes Jesus to the Praetorium and strip Him of His clothes, give Him a purple robe, a crown of thorns and a reed for a staff. They spit at Him, beat Him and mock Him shouting, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matthew 27:27-30; Mark 15:16-19). After beating Him, the soldiers take back the robe, give back His clothes and lead Him to Golgotha (“the Place of the Skull) to be crucified. They had Simon of Cyrene help carry His cross. Hanging on the cross, Jesus refuses wine mixed with gall [berry from a poppy plant]. (Matthew 27:31-34; Mark 15:20-23; Luke 23:26-32; John 19:16-17)

between two thieves

As Jesus hangs on the cross, with nails pierced through His hands and His feet, He sees that He is being executed between two thieves. The soldiers cast lots for His garments and the crowd that has gathered mocks Him. The sign nailed on top of His cross read, “JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS”. Luke’s Gospel records Jesus saying, “Father, FORGIVE them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke also records Jesus FORGIVING the thief who believes in Him. The repentant thief says, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” and Jesus replies, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (See Luke 23:42-43). On the cross, Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? “ He is reciting Psalm 22, as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells “the disciple Whom He loved” [John] to take care of His mother Mary. In Luke, Jesus says, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” John also records Jesus saying, “It is finished.” When Jesus died, the earth grew dark; the curtain in the temple, which hid the Holy of Holies, was torn in two; and many of the dead were raised from their graves and came back to life. Matthew’s Gospel records a centurion declaring, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:35-56; Mark 15:24-41; Luke 23:33-49; John 19:18-30)

Christ's burial

Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council who did not approve of Jesus’ death, who was a secret disciple of Jesus, asks Pilate for the body of Jesus. He is helped by Nicodemus, and they wrap Jesus’ body in linen and spices weighing one hundred pounds and lay Him in a new tomb. Some of the women disciples were also at the tomb and saw where He was laid. (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-42)

On the last day of Holy Week, Christians take time to reflect and meditate on how Jesus willingly died for the sins of the world. Jesus willingly died for you and for me. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (See Romans 5:6 and 8). How can we not rejoice in “such a great salvation?” {See Hebrews 2:3). And how can we not FORGIVE others, especially when God has FORGIVEN us of so much? Good Friday is a time to pray for FORGIVENESS and accept the FORGIVENESS of God, a time to ask others to FORGIVE us for hurting them and a time to FORGIVE those who have hurt us.

forgiveness 2

“Then Peter came up and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Matthew 18:21-22).

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is GOOD for building up, as fit’s the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, FORGIVING one another, as God in Christ FORGAVE you” (Ephesians 4:29-32).

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, FORGIVING each other; as the Lord has FORGIVEN you, so you also must FORGIVE” (Colossians 3:12-13).

body spicesJesus body in tomb

Before the Sabbath begins, the women prepare spices to anoint Jesus’ body the next day (Luke 23:55-56). The chief priests ask for a guard to be placed at Jesus’ tomb because they are afraid His disciples will steal the body. Pilate agrees and posts guards at the tomb, and have them set a seal on the stone in front of the tomb.

Guars at Jesus' tomb

But wait! There’s more to why “GOOD Friday” is so GOOD. It has to do with the GOOD NEWS that comes on Sunday!

What Joy Has Filled Our Hearts! We Are Forgiven and Free to Forgive!

The LydMagdenlena

Lydia

The First “Maundy Thursday”

Christ in the Passover

Jesus gives new meaning to life for those who are His disciples [followers]. He teaches new ways of living through His own example. Jesus tells His followers, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man [Jesus] came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” [Matthew 20:25b-28]. During His last Passover meal with His first disciples, Jesus demonstrates what this teaching means by giving new meaning to two old teachings.

Christ Lamb

First, Jesus changes the Feast of the Passover to commemorate His “Last Supper.” Christians celebrate “the Lord’s Supper,” also known as “Communion” and “the Eucharist” [meaning “Thanksgiving”]. The word “Passover” comes from Exodus 12:12-13: “For I [God] will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood [of a sacrificed lamb] shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I PASS OVER you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” The Passover ended Israel’s slavery in Egypt, but it did not take care of mankind’s sin problem.

The Apostle Paul teaches about the Lord‘s Supper:

Communion2

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the NEW covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you do proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” [I Corinthians 11:23-26].

COMMAND LOVE

Second, Jesus gives His disciples a New Commandment. “Maundy” comes from the Latin “man datum” which means “mandate” or “commandment.” That is why we call Jesus’ last Thursday before His crucifixion “Maundy Thursday.” During the Passover meal Jesus says to His disciples, “A NEW commandment I give to you, that you love one another: JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” [John 13:34-35]. The NEW commandment is from an old commandment: “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself” [See Leviticus 19:18b]. Jesus’ NEW commandment is to “Love one another …AS JESUS LOVES you.” Jesus loves sacrificially and unconditionally

covenant new

The Gospel according to John says this: “Now before the Feast of 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” [13:1]. Jesus changed the old covenant, in which animals had to be sacrificed over and over again as an imperfect atonement for sin, to A NEW COVENANT, in which Jesus became our perfect atoning sacrifice for the payment of our sins: “Christ has obtained a ministry that is much more excellent than the old as the covenant He mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second…Therefore He [Jesus is the mediator of a NEW covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant…so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who eagerly wait for Him” [Hebrews 8:6-7; 9:15, 28].

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As Jesus is celebrating the Feast of the Passover with His disciples in an upper room, they are eating a lamb dinner, along with drinking four cups of wine, which they drink throughout the meal, along with unleavened bread. All of a sudden Judas leaves to go to the chief priests to discuss his betrayal of Jesus. It looks like this is the end, but it is just the beginning of God’s redemptive plan to save mankind from the slavery of sin. John 13:31-32 tells us, “When he [Judas] was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will glorify the Son in Himself, and will glorify Him at once.’”

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After Jesus and his disciples finished the Passover meal, it was the custom to conclude the meal with a piece of unleavened bread. It was possibly at this time, Luke 22:19 records, “And He [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them [disciples], saying, ‘This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’” Jesus then pours the “Cup of Redemption. [or Thanksgiving]” The Apostle Paul refers to this cup when he asks, “Is not this cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks as a participation in the blood of Christ?” (I Corinthians 10:16). Luke also tells us, “In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:20).

The Bible says, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:30).

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Many other crucial events occurred on the first “Maundy Thursday”: Jesus says farewell to His disciples and promises that He is preparing a place for them, the Holy Spirit will come to comfort them and He gives them His peace that is not like what the world offers (John 14:1-31). Jesus also talks to His disciples about Him being the “True Vine” and that they are the “branches”; their strength will come from Him and their “sorrow will be turned into joy” because He has “overcome the world” (John 15-16). Jesus prays for His disciples; for His Father to keep them safe and for His future disciples: “…in order that the love You [the Father] have for Me [The Son] may be in them [all of Jesus’ followers]” (John 17). Jesus agonizes in the Garden of Gethsemane, while His disciples sleep. He asks His Father three times, if there is any way “this cup” can pass from Him. Luke tells us that Jesus’ sweat became “like drops of blood.” At the end of each prayer, Jesus said, “yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Matthew 26:30-46; Mark 14:26-42; Luke 22:39-46, John 18:1). Jesus is betrayed by Judas with a kiss and is arrested and all the disciples desert Him (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12). Jesus is tried before Annas (John 18:12-23), and before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54-65; John 18:15-27). Finally, Peter – His friend Peter – denies knowing Jesus three times (Matthew 26:58, 69-75; Mark 14:54, 66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27).

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Jesus gives us a New Commandment: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). How do we love like Jesus? He shows us how to love through His own example. Jesus shows us how to love by all the things He did and by all the things He endured on our behalf. But, He didn’t stop there. He explains in John 15:12-14, 17: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command…This is my command: Love each other.” Jesus never tells us to do anything He hasn’t done Himself. On that first Maundy Thursday, He gave us the Sacrament of Communion and tells us to remember Him, and He also washed His disciples’ feet [See John 13:1-20]. Next, comes “Good Friday” when He died to make us free! All He wants in return is for us to love Him in return and to love each other sacrificially and unconditionally. He gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to love as He loves.

fairest Jesus

“Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

The Lyd

Lydia

Holy Tuesday (Part II) 2015

a cameleye of needle

[Even though Matthew 3:4 records John the Baptist wore “a garment of camel’s hair” and in Luke 18:24 Jesus says, “For it is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” what Jesus did on “Hump Day” or the last Wednesday before His crucifixion is not recorded in any of the four Gospels. That’s okay because we haven’t gotten through what Jesus did on His last Tuesday.]

Christ Teaching

When we rejoin Jesus on the last Tuesday before His crucifixion, He is alone with His disciples. Jesus answers their questions regarding the end times, but He does not give an exact date when “the end” will come. Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple and gives the signs to look for in nature, human governments, and people’s depravity and so on, as clues that the end of the world as we know it is near. He also says that the Gospel [GOOD NEWS] is to be preached to all nations before His return. In Matthew, Jesus talks about the days of Noah, and how one is taken into heaven and the other is left behind. He teaches the parables of “The Faithful Householder” and “The Wise Servant” and “The Ten Virgins” and “The Talents [money]”. All these parables have to do with being ready for Jesus’ Second Coming. Jesus warns them again about “The Final Judgment” in “The Sheep and the Goats” parable. (See Matthew 24-25; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-38). I know that I am ready for Jesus to come again because “…when the KINDNESS and LOVE of GOD OUR SAVIOR [Jesus Christ] appeared, He saved us, not because of any righteous things we had done, but because of His MERCY. He [GOD] saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out on us GENEROUSLY through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His GRACE, we might become heirs having the HOPE of eternal life” (Titus 34-7). [Did you notice that these verses in Titus mention the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit?]

Judas

Matthew records Jesus telling His disciples, two days before the Passover, that He will be crucified. The three Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke] record the chief priests and scribes plotting Jesus’ death after the Festival. Luke records Satan entering Judas Iscariot. (See Matthew 26:1-5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2.) Right about now, it looks like Satan is gaining ground and something terribly wrong is going to happen. However, just the opposite is true. All who believe in the Cross of Christ are about to be set free from Satan’s grip. To this day, some people think all this talk about the cross is utter nonsense. But, to those who trust Jesus for their salvation, it is the crux (decisive, pivotal, most vital point) of our lives. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate’” (I Corinthians 1:18-19 [Also Isaiah 29:14]).

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The woman who enters Simon’s house does not think the cross is foolishness. Matthew and Mark tell of the time when Jesus is at the house of Simon the leper in Bethany. Perhaps Jesus finally took time to get a bite to eat, when a woman comes in and pours expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. The disciples complain that what she is doing is a waste and the perfume that should be turned into money to be given to the poor. Jesus tells them they will always have the poor, but they will not always have Him [in bodily form]. He explains that the woman was preparing Him for burial. In Mark, Jesus says that what she has done will be remembered. (See Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9.) The same kind of event is recorded in John 12:2-8, before the “Triumphal Entry,” at Lazarus’ house. The woman is identified as Mary, Lazarus’ sister and, of course, Martha was serving dinner in Jesus’ honor. This time, “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair (John 12:3). Judas Iscariot, keeper of the money bag, is identified as the one who complains about the waste. John writes, “[Judas] did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (12:6). Because this same kind of event happened in two separate locations, I believe Matthew and Mark are writing about the same incident and John is writing about another incident. Whether it is the same incident, only someone got the location wrong, or they are two separate events, the important lesson to be learned is not to hold back when we serve the Lord. We need to GO FOR IT, with everything we have, no matter what others may think. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Judas to high priests

Judas Iscariot, on the other hand, thought all this talk about Jesus dying on the cross was foolishness. Jesus was not the “Jesus” he was looking for. Judas thought he was going nowhere fast. Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests to discuss an opportune time to betray Jesus. The chief priests were glad about this and agreed to pay him for the betrayal of his friend. Matthew records the payment to be thirty pieces of silver. (See Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6).

Christ's joy in trials

I’m afraid many people, even those who call themselves Christians, want Jesus to be what He is not. They want Him to be the One who makes their lives easy and gives them riches and good health and fame and a smoothly paved path to walk on. But Jesus calls everyone who wants to follow Him to walk the way of the cross. Jesus says to all of His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25;also see Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24)

masks we wear

My brother in Christ who worships God in The Eastern Orthodox Church sent me an email last year during Holy Week. He has given me permission to share his “Thoughts and Readings” with you.

“Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it. Anyone who loses his/her life will find it” – Matthew 16:25.

“That’s a pretty strong, almost brutal, statement from Jesus. But it makes very clear that there is necessary suffering that cannot be avoided, which Jesus calls ‘losing your very life,’ or the False Self. Your False Self is your role, title, and personal image that is largely a creation of your own mind and attachments. It will and must die in exact correlation to how much you want the Real.

When you do die before you die, you are choosing the Real – or union with God, (theosis) – over separation from God. You are choosing ‘the kingdom of God’ over your smaller kingdoms. Heaven is the state of union both here and later, Only the True Self knows that.

The lasting question is: ‘How much False Self are you willing to shed to find your True Self?’ Such necessary suffering will always feel like dying, (for it is dying of self) which is what good spiritual teachers/leaders will tell you very honestly.”

(Taken in part from “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life” – Fr. Richard Rohr)

I have been “chewing” [meditating] on this one for about a year now. I believe dying to myself means being more like Jesus. When there is more of Jesus and less of ME, I will be able to have a better “taste” of what Heaven is like.

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[When Jesus told His disciples “it is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” the disciples were concerned and asked, “Then who can be saved?” and Jesus answered, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (See Luke 18:25-27). In a matter of days the disciples would find out what Jesus was talking about.]

JOHN THE BAPTIST

“[Jesus must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)

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Lydia