He Turned the Tables…For All Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Friday of Jesus’ final week.  It’s called Good Friday.  Good in the sense that God sent His only Son to pay the price for our sin debt.  God planned and orchestrated the greatest act of love in human history.

Jesus is being crucified at Golgotha, The Place of the Skull.  Jesus was nailed to the cross at approximately nine in the morning.  It’s now three o’clock in the afternoon, it has been dark since noon, to fulfill the scripture in Amos 8:9  I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day; and in Jeremiah 15:9, Her sun is gone down while it is yet day.  The darkness to signify that the Sun of righteousness was leaving this world and the Jewish nation would be in darkness; a sign from heaven that their eyes would be blinded.  At three o’clock in the afternoon, Jesus cries out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  Matthew 27:46b.  The darkness further signifying the dark cloud of Jesus’ soul as he himself was the offering for sin, the sacrificial lamb.  It also signified the withdrawing of the light of God’s countenance as Jesus took on the sins of the world.

After Jesus cried out and breathed his last breath, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  The splitting of the curtain signifies the destruction of the nation and church of Israel and the entering in of the new and living way into the Holy of Holies by the blood of Christ.  No longer will the High Priest, from the Levitical priesthood, come into the Holy of Holies once a year to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people with blood that is not his own but with the blood of animals.  Christ is now our High Priest, in the order of Melchizedek, who’s own blood was shed as the only eternal, acceptable sacrifice and sprinkled on the Holy of Holies in heaven and therefore he is able to continually intercede for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.

In the temple area in Jerusalem, the Court of the Gentiles is several acres on the outer most part of the temple area.  This is the designated area for gentiles from all nations to come worship and pray.  Just a few days before, Jesus had come into the temple area in Jerusalem and overturned the tables of the money changers.  These passages of scripture are given the most prominence in regard to the anger of Jesus in regards to the greed and dishonesty of the money changers and people selling animals for sacrifice that filled the Court of the Gentiles.  Furthermore, any gentile who wanted to come into the Court of the Gentiles to pray had a difficult time doing so because they were crowded out by all the vendors selling animals and the money changers that were making exorbitant fees.  Jesus comes into the Court of the Gentiles and literally “turns the tables.”  The Jewish leadership had allowed the sanctity of God’s temple to be robbed.  Allowing the merchants and money changers into the temple area showed the Jewish leadership’s lack of dedication to God and the true purpose of the temple.  Further, it also showed Israel’s lack of respect for people of every nation to come worship and pray.  What Jesus did by literally turning the tables in the Court of the Gentiles, displays what was getting ready to happen in a few short days when He hung on the cross.  Similarly, in the book of Esther, God “turned the tables” for the Jewish people displaying the greatest turnaround on the grandest of scales.  Christ did, likewise, turn the tables for all peoples from every tribe and nation for all time.

Sometimes Jesus would speak of future realities in the present tense.  One example is when Jesus spoke of the signs of the end of the age.  In Matthew 24:34 “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”  Surely, the disciples must have marveled at what Jesus was saying and wondered when this event would happen in their life time.

As finite beings that think sequentially due to our restriction to time and space, we have a past, present and future.  God is eternal, transcendent and above time and space.  God is the eternal present tense.  He is the eternal present tense in our past, present and future.  So, when Jesus tells the disciples of these events,  He is speaking of our future reality in His eternal present tense.

In the present, Jesus shows his anger toward the money changers crowding in the Court of the Gentiles and preventing the gentiles from worship and prayer.  In the future, Jesus displays through this act that the former way of temple worship will be no more.  But, an even greater act is that from now on the Gentiles are no longer restricted to the outer court.  Christ’s death has secured our future and He has turned the tables for all time. The promise of that future reality was signed and sealed when Jesus breathed his last breath on the cross and the curtain was torn in two from top to bottom.  The gentiles from the outer court of the temple area are now able to run right into the temple, past the The Holy Place and into the The Most Holy Place to the alter of God.

So,  don’t stand around and dawdle in the Court of the Gentiles, run…don’t walk…run through the temple to the Holy of Holies to the alter of God.  Jesus has secured our future.  He was forsaken by the Father so that we wouldn’t be forsaken.  Yes, this is Good Friday and it is the darkest day in history. But, Good Friday is in anticipation of Easter Sunday, the brightest day in human history.

If you’ve been half-hearted or lukewarm to the things of God…today is the day to turn it all around.  Jesus has already turned the tables for you.  All you have to do is turn to Him.

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Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem

As we come into the most wondrous time of the year, Jesus’ birth, I ponder the miraculous place of His birth all orchestrated by the Father.

To Live is Christ

Micah 5:2,5b is the prophesy regarding the place of Christ’s birth, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting…and this One shall be peace.”

How truly amazing is the birth of Jesus in so many respects.  Micah prophesied long ago of the exact town in which Jesus would be born.  Jesus doesn’t come as we would think in grandeur and born in a major city…He comes in insignificance and littleness.   It’s so fitting for God to do this…no human can claim any glory, so that God receives all the glory.  Jesus was placed in an animal trough, so that no craftsman would say “He chose my well-crafted bed.”

Though God chose that Jesus be born in the insignificant and not very…

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He’s Unchangeable…I’m Changeable

hebrews 13 8

Some days I take two steps back and one step forward or maybe even three steps back and one step forward. Frustrated that I cannot always move forward. But what I have learned is that those steps back can be helpful in my progression to move forward. Sometimes when we attempt to win victory over a sin in our life…we can frequently fail. Those failures can bring us to a place of being more aware and sorrowful for our sin. Our heart then cries out to God for His mercy and grace. Not a cry for God to remove the desire, but a cry for His grace to enable us to have victory over the sin. You see, it’s not the removal of the sinful desire that gives God glory. It’s our surrender to Him and the understanding that we no longer believe the lie. What lie you ask? Well, it’s two-fold actually.  First of all, we believe that the sinful desire will complete the promise it has told us and we will be fulfilled.  A sinful desire never completes its promise.  The only promise it provides is guilt and shame.  Secondly, we believe the desire we have is of greater worth than God. It’s true!  Every time we choose a sinful desire we have chosen something that is not what God desires for us and usurps Him.  Beloved, It is God’s presence and His grace that allows the victory in our lives and that gives Him glory.

So, I thank Him today that He is unchangeable..immutable. If He were changeable, how could He ever be trusted? If he were changeable, how could He ever change me into His likeness. He is trustworthy and true. He is the faithful, unchangeable creator who loved me before the world was created.

Jesus is the unchangeable savior who continues to rescue me every day and the Father will one day deliver every one who is His child to the bridegroom as His spotless bride.

The King

martin luther king jrI was only ten years old on August 28, 1963, when from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood before 200,000 civil rights supporters and delivered one of the most famous speeches of the 20th century entitled, “I Have a Dream.”   King called for racial equality and an end to discrimination.

My father’s family is from the Deep South…Louisiana.  My mother’s family hails from a small town in northeast Texas.  Because of where my parents were from, they grew up inundated with racial inequality.   That meant…separate bathrooms for blacks, required seating in the back of the bus, even separate water fountains to drink from…all those corrupt requirements imposed to try and prove that whites were superior when in actuality it proved our pride and hatred.  Even at ten years old, I recall feeling uncomfortable if I heard the “n” word because I knew it was not a term of endearment but a pinpointing of their insignificance.

I remember the day King gave this speech because I recall watching my father as he listened to him on television.  The expression on my father’s face changed through the course of King’s speech.  You know what I mean?  That curious, inquisitive look of, “Well, I wonder what this fine, black fella has to say.” transformed to “I don’t think I’ll ever be the same!”  My father got up from his chair…different.  I could hear the liberation in his voice when he spoke.  God had touched his heart with King’s message.

When was the last time God touched your heart with THE King’s message?  Unlike the early disciples who had to rely on their memory of Jesus walking and talking with them, we possess in our very hands the written Word.  When was the last time you allowed the King to liberate your heart?  Take out your Bible.  Sit.  Read.  Ponder.  Meditate on it.  Memorize it.  Open your heart and allow The King of Kings to come in and touch your heart TODAY!

Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem

Micah 5:2,5b is the prophesy regarding the place of Christ’s birth, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting…and this One shall be peace.”

How truly amazing is the birth of Jesus in so many respects.  Micah prophesied long ago of the exact town in which Jesus would be born.  Jesus doesn’t come as we would think in grandeur and born in a major city…He comes in insignificance and littleness.   It’s so fitting for God to do this…no human can claim any glory, so that God receives all the glory.  Jesus was placed in an animal trough, so that no craftsman would say “He chose my well-crafted bed.”

Though God chose that Jesus be born in the insignificant and not very populated town of Bethlehem; He chose a town where princes of Judah had been born…King David.  This is where Bethlehem would receive it’s honor, not in the multitude of it’s people, but in the magnificence of the princes born there.

God chose that Jesus, the true manna from heaven, who was given for the life of the world (John 6:51) to be born in Bethlehem, which means the “house of bread”!   In Hebrew Beth-lehem is two words and means “house” (Beth as in Beth-el, “house of God”) and “bread” (lehem). The Hebrew Language is read from right to left, and so Bethlehem is written like this:

  bread           house

Jesus said we are to feed on Him, “by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” the living bread.  Yes, His words reaching deep into your heart and soul become your very life.  His Word is Life, Truth, and Freedom for all who will receive, feast and believe. Jesus was born in the House of Bread.

Note also that God makes His announcement of Jesus’ birth not only to the Jews through the scriptures written so long ago, but also to the Gentiles in their day,  by the star.  The Gentiles know the time of His birth by the star and the Jews know the place of His birth by the scriptures.

So, what about Ephrathah?  Ephrathah, or Ephrath, is the ancient name for the town of Bethlehem, in Judah, in the southern part of the land of Israel.  It is referenced all the way back in Genesis 35.   The name “Bethlehem Ephrathah,” prophesied by Micah was used to distinguish it from another town named Bethlehem in the northern part of Israel. Ephrathah means, “fruitfulness” or “abundance.”  Jesus was born in the House of Fruitfulness.

Jesus, the true manna from heaven, came down from heaven.  His life which is given for the life of the world was born in the House of Bread.  The One who IS the embodiment of the fruits of the Spirit, provides and enables my fruitfulness to God was born in the House of Fruitfulness.

Only God could have planned and orchestrated this.

Glory to God in the Highest!

Boasting in Weaknesses

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ‘s power may rest on me. 2 Cor. 12:9

Paul boasts in weaknesses (not sinful weaknesses) but in limitations, illnesses, distresses, or circumstantial adversities. Why does Paul boast in these afflictions? Paul knew that it is not human achievements that showcase the grace of God…it is human helplessness. This is the Christian paradox. When we are weak in ourselves, we then reach out to Christ and are provided His strength and divine grace. God has given us our weaknesses for our joy. What do I mean? Because the more aware I am of God’s grace, the more humble, prayerful, thankful, patient, gracious, content, and joyful I will be. That’s exactly where I desire to be.

Weaknesses are there to display most clearly the grace and strength of God.

Does X-MAS Take Christ Out of Christmas?

We see the X as we would see it in the English language, such as in an equation representing an unknown quantity or as in x-rated, representing an obscene movie rating.

On the surface, it may appear that Christ is being taken out of Christmas, but is this what is really going on?

Symbols from the early church

The early Christians used the symbol of a fish when persecution was great by the Romans.  This symbol was an acronym for the Greek word for fish, ichthus.   Early Christians wrote this symbol on the ground when they met someone they didn’t know to discover if the person was Christian.  Now the ichthus is the universal symbol for Christendom.

When we see the X we think of the English letter, but in actuality it is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, Christos.  Which is transliterated into our English alphabet as X. So, the X has come through the history of the church to be a shorthand symbol for the name of Christ.

The intention of the X

There is a long history of Christians using the symbol X for Christ.  Just as the early Christians used the fish symbol to distinguish other Christians, so there is no disrespect intended in using the X in Xmas.  X = Christos (Greek word for Christ)

Made for Him

We were made for Jesus and our hearts are forsaken until they find their love in Him.

We were made for Jesus and our hearts are downcast until they find their joy in Him.

We were made for Jesus and our hearts are warring until they find their peace in Him.

We were made for Jesus and our hearts are anxious until they find their patience in Him.

We were made for Jesus and our hearts are hard until they find their kindness in Him.

We were made for Jesus and our hearts are selfish until they find their goodness in Him.

We were made for Jesus and our hearts are inconstant until they find their faithfulness in Him.

We were made for Jesus and our hearts are harsh until they find their gentleness in Him.

We were made for Jesus and our hearts are indulgent until they find their temperance in Him.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” NLT Ephesians 2:10

God sees us in our pitiful state…”O LORD, what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.” Psalm 144:3-4

God’s love for us compels Him to act…”God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God.”  2 Corinthians 5:21

Our response to God…”I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” Psalm 86:12

He Heals the Brokenhearted

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

The past two years have been challenging in several different areas of my life.  The most emotional challenge has brought about the most painful hurt.  Isn’t that the way it usually is?  My most painful hurt was to be misunderstood by two friends and then subsequently lose their friendships.

When I reflect on the situation, I become sad by the loss and sometimes anger is stirred because of the way it transpired.  The anger stems from the unanswered questions of “why would I be treated this way by a friend?” or  “why weren’t my friends more supportive?”

The story of Job is an example of friends who came to console but ended up causing Job more heartache.   His friends came to him with the right intention, to comfort; but ultimately with the wrong message,  “you’re doing it wrong!”  Job’s hope was in God, but his friends did not agree with the way he was handling the situation and thought he had done something to bring on all of this tragedy and pain.  Oh, I pray that in that situation, I would be quick to listen and slow to speak!

Our perception is so faulty at times because of our sinful nature.  Unfortunately, our flesh has a tendency to raise it’s ugly head when we least expect it.  You may not think that is true, but think about this.  Have you been with an acquaintance or friend and they poured their heart out and you caught yourself tempted to one-up their situation?  Or, have you ever listened to someone pour their heart out and then you presumably had “all” the answers?  In situations where a friend is hurting, with few exceptions, the best friends are usually the quiet and listening friends.  And you know what?  Listening is so often difficult, but most of the time it is what is truly needed.  Sometimes there are no immediate answers.  Sometimes the answers are hidden from us.  Sometimes what seems apparent is not the case at all.  And sometimes the answers are just not what is important, it’s the being there for the friend that is needed.  “Bear one another’s burdens, and therefore fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2 says.  Paul further exhorts us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15.

The modus operandi of my flesh when I am hurt by someone is to initially feel sad, question, and then go back and forth with thoughts of self-pity and feeling sad.  This is where our foot gets caught in the trap and Satan is allowed a foothold.  The enemy of our soul is always looking for opportunities where we “feel” cheated or mistreated because then we are vulnerable to the set up of thinking we deserve more or better.  Isn’t that what happened to Eve in the Garden of Eden?  Satan tempted her by appealing to the idea that God was somehow holding out on her.  He then led her down the path of thinking she deserved more or better than God was giving her.  The snare is set.  In this particular case,  Satan turns the tide toward self-pity and despair.  Repeating lies to you until you agree with him.  When we choose to step deeper and deeper into the waters of doubt; which leads us right onto the deserted Isle of self-pity; then before we know it, the hurricane of despair has engulfed us and drowns us in it’s sorrows.

The real question when I am sorrowful is how much time am I spending in His Word and on my knees with the Lord?  The more time on my knees spent with the Lord, the more I fully release my burden to Him and receive His peace.  The more time in His Word, the more I gain His perspective regarding the situation and allow His Word to minister to me.  What is God’s response when we seek Him?  He will reach down into the depths of the sea of despair and grab you by the hand and pull you up and place onto the solid rock.  He is our refuge.  He is our shelter.

Beloved, we will all suffer hurts, pains, and wounds in this life from all different sources; but Jesus is the One we must run to.  He has designed us to seek Him.  When we come to Him in truth and transparency, He will give us His peace and rest.  Let’s not be of those that run to substitute gods; such as:  alcohol, sex, drugs, money and many other forms of idolatry that only provide us with empty promises and ultimately a spiral down the sea of despair.  Jesus will heal your broken heart.  Be persistent.  Don’t give up if you don’t sense  relief right away.  Get on your knees and get in His Word.  He WILL heal your broken heart.  Don’t walk…run to Him, beloved, run to the rock that can’t be moved!  Run to the arms of true love and bask in His peace and rest.  He is the “balm of Gilead” and He will heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds.

My Father’s Love

dad and meMy dad, a man’s man.  An excellent shot with a rifle earned him the nickname “hawk eye” while attending high school.  A naval fighter pilot in WWII, he attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander.   Following the war, he completed his education in dentistry.

My father and I were very close.  I worked in his dental office for three years while in high school and reluctantly during the summers.   Three weeks after graduation from high school, I moved away from home and began my college classes.

Just a few months into my first spring semester at college, I received the call.  The call that I least expected.  The call that no one wants to receive.   A mole on my father’s back was tested and the results came back positive for cancer.   The bomb was dropped and fear gripped me.

My mother and he would frequently drive 200 miles to Houston to be treated at the only cancer hospital in our part of Texas at the time.  He would gratefully receive his high dose of chemotherapy to ebb the tide of the melanoma that was rapidly flooding his body.  My humble, man’s man dad battled this fierce giant for about two years.

I was living in Austin and managing a clothing store. I recall this day as if it was yesterday. I had returned from lunch and the store was experiencing it’s afternoon rush, when I got a surprise visit from my employer.  He had brought a car load full of new clothes to set out, when the phone rang.  One of the sales girls answered the phone and beckoned to me that the call was for me.   As I said the word, “hello,” in a rather questionable tone, I knew something was wrong because I rarely received personal phone calls.  It was my dad.   He never called me at the store.   It was the middle of the afternoon, he would be working.   He could hear the worry in my voice and prepped me for his news by asking me how my day was.   Then, he said in a calm, almost monotone voice, that the cancer had spread to his brain.   An ambulance was coming to transport him to the hospital; he was being admitted that very day.  He told me that he knew he didn’t have long to live.  Then, he began to speak words of endearing love to me.  He expressed concern that he wouldn’t be there to walk me down the aisle and whisper in my ear that I was the most beautiful bride. The floodgates of tears opened and there was no damn to stop them.  He said, “I know these things may be hard for you to hear, but I need to say them because I know I don’t have long.  I want you to know how much I love you, how much you have enriched my life.”   I heard those words and completely fell apart because I knew my actions and attitudes over the previous years, especially beginning with college, were anything but enriching.   He even went into details of inheritance he had left me.  He continued to pour out words of encouragement and love to me.  These few minutes with him were by far the sweetest I had ever experienced with him, and I can tell you, I could have lived a life time on the sweet moments I had already had with my father.   In his usual “thinking of others first” mentality, he knows he is dying soon and his mind is looming with thoughts of love and reassurance towards me.

A few days later, my mother called me at work to tell me it was time to come home.  I packed up not knowing how long I would be gone.  My boss gave me a leave of absence and I was on my way.  Unfortunately, by the time I arrived at the hospital in San Antonio, my dad had already slipped into a coma.  Within a few short hours, he departed this world, within the blink of an eye, arrived in the presence of the Lord of life.

What a gift my father had left me…words of love, encouragement, and life.  Words he knew I would never forget.

My father expressed his love to me in spite of my actions that were so unloving at times.

How much more has God expressed His love towards us in spite of our sins that are against Him by sending His only Son who paid the ransom for all our sins; past, present and future!

My father showed his love to me in expressing his concern that he wouldn’t be there to “give me away” on the day of my wedding.

How much more has our heavenly Father shown and expressed his love and joy in presenting us, the bride, to His son, our bridegroom, on the day of the wedding supper of the Lamb!

My father had no thought of himself, his thoughts were of me.

How much more has our heavenly Father’s thoughts been of us through His plan of salvation and the obedience of His Son’s death on the cross!

My father poured out words of love and life to me.

How much more has our heavenly Father poured out His words of love and life through sending His son to speak His words of love and life and leave His Words for us in the Bible!

My father encouraged me even though he knew he was dying soon.

How much more has our Heavenly Father encouraged us through His Son and the gift of the Holy Spirit!  Even from the cross while Jesus was suffering and His death was imminent, He took care of the needs of his earthly mother.  Then following His resurrection, the Father sends the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to dwell in every believer to teach, encourage, and convict us of sin.

My father reassured my future by providing an inheritance for me.

How much more has our Heavenly Father reassured our future through His inheritance to us!  The Father provided eternal life bought through the blood of His only Son.   Jesus also described a portion of our inheritance in heaven as an encouragement to his disciples and to us; the glorious inheritance of the saints.

Beloved, our heavenly Father’s love far exceeds anything we could ever experience on earth, but I am thankful for an earthly father that was not only a child of God, but a father who knew the importance of expressing and showing his love to me.   He poured his love out to me and also expressed The Father’s words of love to me.  He was a beacon and reflection of my heavenly Father.   Thankful!   So thankful to God for my earthly father and my heavenly Father!