The Redeemed Life

a Christian blog cultivating spiritual growth

Archive for March, 2013

31 March
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Easter Sunday, the Foundation of Our Faith

I hope you have all had a blessed Easter!  This is the highest celebration of the Christian calendar and the foundation of our faith in Jesus Christ.  Enjoy this ancient sermon by St. John Chrysostom (AD 347-407).

An Easter Sermon

A re there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary from fasting?
Let them now receive their due!

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their reward.

If any have come after the third hour,
let them with gratitude join in the feast!

Those who arrived after the sixth hour,
let them not doubt; for they shall not be short-changed.

Those who have tarried until the ninth hour,
let them not hesitate; but let them come too.

And those who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let them not be afraid by reason of their delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
The Lord gives rest to those who come at the eleventh hour,
even as to those who toiled from the beginning.

To one and all the Lord gives generously.
The Lord accepts the offering of every work.
The Lord honours every deed and commends their intention.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike, receive your reward.
Rich and poor, rejoice together!

Conscientious and lazy, celebrate the day!
You who have kept the fast, and you who have not,
rejoice, this day, for the table is bountifully spread!

Feast royally, for the calf is fatted.
Let no one go away hungry.
Partake, all, of the banquet of faith.
Enjoy the bounty of the Lord’s goodness!

Let no one grieve being poor,
for the universal reign has been revealed.

Let no one lament persistent failings,
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death,
for the death of our Saviour has set us free.

The Lord has destroyed death by enduring it.
The Lord vanquished hell when he descended into it.
The Lord put hell in turmoil even as it tasted of his flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, were placed in turmoil when he encountering you below.”

Hell was in turmoil having been eclipsed.
Hell was in turmoil having been mocked.
Hell was in turmoil having been destroyed.
Hell was in turmoil having been abolished.
Hell was in turmoil having been made captive.

Hell grasped a corpse, and met God.
Hell seized earth, and encountered heaven.
Hell took what it saw, and was overcome by what it could not see.

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen, and you are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life is set free!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead.

For Christ, having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Christ be glory and power forever and ever.

Amen!

 

 

He is Risen!!!  He is Risen Indeed!!!

29 March
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28 March
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The Four Cups of the Last Supper

I would like to take a break from our regular study on Luke to celebrate Maunday Thursday.

As Christians, we are approaching the most important events on the Christian calendar.  Tonight, the Thursday before Easter Sunday, Christians all over the world remember the last supper that Jesus shared with His friends before His trial, punishment and execution on Good Friday.  This was a Jewish celebration called the Passover Seder which Jesus reinterpreted and gave as a gift to His church.  In our world today, millions of Christians partake of Communion (or Eucharist) as a direct reminder of the Last Supper that Jesus shared with His disciples.  The Passover is a celebration that Jews celebrate to commemorate the miraculous events that lead to their liberation from the bondage of slavery thousands of years ago.

The Last Supper of our Lord is packed full of Old Testament imagery that powerfully point to Jesus Christ as the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises to His people.  Everything, from the bread, wine, herbs, and lamb, all carry heavy symbolism which has been lost to many believers over the centuries.  Today, I would like to look at one particular part of the Supper that is gives us a clearer understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice: the four cups of wine.

During the Passover, participants would drink four separate cups of wine throughout the course of the meal.  Before drinking from the cup, they would recite four promises God made to them as they were redeemed from slavery and given freedom.  These promises are sourced in the passage Exodus 6:6-7:

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

  1. The first cup is called Liberation (I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians).
  2. The second is Blessing (I will free you from being slaves to them).
  3. The third is Redemption (I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgment)
  4. And the fourth is Acceptance (I will take you as my people and I will be your God.)

According to Church tradition, when Jesus said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you,” He was referring to the third cup – the cup of Redemption.  Jesus was teaching His followers that the sacrifice He was about to make on the cross was the long awaited redemption from God.  In the most unimaginable act of mercy in the universe, God redeemed not only the Jewish people, but all humanity “with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment.”  And the most beautiful thing about this is that God poured out His judgment not on us, the rightful recipients of His wrath, but instead on our substitutionary sacrifice – Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God.

According to the Scriptures, after Jesus offered the third cup His disciples, He said, “For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  This meant He wasn’t going to drink from the final cup – the cup of Acceptance.  Throughout the course of the dinner, Jesus shows His followers that almost all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in His life and ministry to the people.  But the final cup – the cup of Acceptance – is not something Jesus will drink again until all God’s promises are complete.

One of the things that absolutely melts my heart is the fact that Jesus waits to share the final cup with us on that glorious Day.  It is a cup that all God’s children will share together when our Lord and King returns to take us home.  And I can almost hear Jesus’ words as we drink of the final cup “Forever you are my beloved, and forever I will be your God!”

Jesus first coming was to bring us Redemption.  His Second Coming is to Accept us into our eternal home with Him.  This is the imagery He sought to teach us as He reinterpreted the wine of the Passover meal.

So as we celebrate and remember the events surrounding the cross, let us also continue to pray fervently: Come Lord Jesus!  Take us home!  Let us forever drink from the final cup of blessing!  Take away the barrier between us!  Let our hearts finally cry out: “We are your people and You are our God!”

27 March
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Turn Your Gaze Toward Heaven – Luke 10:17-20

Luke 10:17-20 – Listen

17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

After completing their mission work, the disciples returned to Jesus to report all the good things that they experienced in their ministry.  Jesus rejoices with them and prophetically speaks of the downfall of Satan’s kingdom of darkness.  His prophecy of the fall of Satan echoes an older prophecy from Isaiah 14:12.  Like lightning in a storm, the fall of Satan is sudden and noticeable to everyone who is paying attention.  Although Jesus’ followers have supreme power over the forces of darkness, Jesus encourages His followers not to rejoice over our power over demons, but rather in the fact that God has saved us and we are bound for eternity with Him in heaven.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

The Christian life is an amazing thing.  Before we are even worthy to receive God’s mercy and grace, He reaches out to us in our sin and filth and revives our dead heart, giving us new life in Him.  Then He sets us on a path and gives us the privileged of being part of His rescue mission to save the world.  In that process, He empowers us and promises us that we will always have spiritual victory over Satan and sin while living in this world.  And when our end comes, death is nothing more than a transition into a blissful eternity with God.  God has given us absolutely everything we could ever want or need, and continues to pour out grace upon grace in every part of our lives.  Lets thank God today for the immense blessings He has given to us, and the sweet promises that are yet to come.

How sweet it is to be redeemed by our Lord!

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Jesus takes time to rejoice with His disciples over the victories that they achieved in their ministry.  But after sharing in their joy in conquering evil spirits, He redirects their attention to the Lord above.  The application I see from this is something personal.  I have always had a strange fascination with the various aspects of spiritual warfare.  There is something thrilling and attractive about the battle in unseen realms.  And while the Bible seeks to inform us and warn us about the spiritual reality of this war, Jesus’ voice calls us to look beyond the spiritual battles we face, and instead find deep joy in the fact that our eternity has been seals forever in God’s Book of Life.  We have some things to be grateful about in this world, but our deepest and greatest joy rests in our salvation and long-awaiting homecoming into the presence of God.  It’s a matter of turning our attention away from the darkness, and instead being transformed by gazing at the light and life of our beautiful God in heaven.

26 March
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Urgent Mission, Important Message – Luke 10:1-16

Luke 10:1-12 – Listen

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.

16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

After teaching about the cost of discipleship, Jesus sends out larger and larger groups of disciples to proclaim His message.  The instructions that He gives them has a sense of urgency and importance.  The disciples go out in groups of two according to the laws of the Old Testament pracitice (see Deut. 17:6; 19:15).  These Gospel messengers carry the same message as Jesus, and acceptance or rejection of these ambassadors constitutes an acceptance or rejection of Jesus Himself.

Jesus also teaches here that there are varying degrees of punishment are based on the amount of knowledge that has been received.  The cities who would have responded to the miracles and ministry of Jesus are to receive a lesser punishment.  But those people who have seen, witnessed and experienced Jesus ministry will be held to a higher judgment.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

I get into countless conversations with people who think that God is a mean bully up in the sky, just waiting to punish people for every mistake they make.  When I read passages like this, I am reminded of the amazing truth that is echoed time and time again throughout the Bible: God is just.  God holds us accountable for the things that we have received in this life.  That is why the book of James says that teachers will be held to a higher standard since they had a higher understanding of God’s will.  To those whom much is given, much will be expected.  God is the same, and His judgment on each person is in direct correlation to their own life choices.  God won’t expect us to be responsible for something outside of our control.

While I may not understand why bad things happen in this world, while I may not be able to explain every evil that occurs, while I won’t be able to satisfy every curiousity, I do know that God is fair… And I am able to lean on that amazing truth when the world doesn’t make sense.  But more than just being a fair judge, God is merciful and gracious.  I am positive that on that great Day when He returns, I will be surprised by His grace even more than I am today.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

As Christians, we carry the same message and authority as these early missionaries.  God has given us certain personalities, occupations, and relationships so that we could be His “sent ones” to the world around us.  We don’t have to be an overseas missionary to be able to share the Good News of God.  We can do that every single day!  God knew where you’d be and who you’d talk with before your day even began.  Wait expectantly for God to open doors for you to speak of His Kingdom today.  And as you make disciples, remember that God is with you in every step of the process.  Err on the side of grace and allow God to work in you today.  The message is urgent.  The implications are eternal.

25 March
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The Highest Calling in Life – Luke 9:57-62

Luke 9:57-62 – Listen

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This passage contains 3 mini-narratives, each speaking of the theme of “following” Jesus.  In the first story, Jesus teaches that following Him is not easy.  Following Jesus means that there is no place of refuge in this world His disciples follow His lead.  Since Jesus is a foreigner in this world, His followers are also sojourners in this life, constantly moving toward our true home in Heaven.  The second narrative can easily be misunderstood, but it is clear that Jesus does indeed care about honoring our parents (see Matt. 15:1-9).  In Jesus’ day, the burial ritual was a year-long process that involved burying the body, then a year later, retrieving the bones and reburying it in an ossuary.  This “would-be disciple” is not primarily concerned about taking care of the burial, but instead uses it as an excuse to not respond to the call of God.  The final story is of a farmer who seeks to say goodbye to his family.  There is absolutely no harm in saying goodbye to family, but Jesus speaks here to living a life of regret.  The disciple who would “look back” would not be an effective follower of Jesus because they would be incapable of unwavering faith and focus on Jesus, just as a farmer plowing the field would be incapable of maintaining a straight path if he kept looking back.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

The narrative doesn’t tell how the people responded to Jesus’ challenge of discipleship.  What we know is that Jesus spoke the truth, and allowed them to make their choice from there.  According to worldly standards, its utter foolishness to give up the “good things” in this life to follow Jesus.  But if you are among the redeemed who are following Him, thank God that He has awakened your heart to the truth.  You may feel the cost of discipleship in this world, but we worship a God who promises that our suffering and sacrifice will never go in vain.  Its all about priorities – seeking temporal and fleeting moments of happiness here, or seeking everlasting joy in the life to come.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

As followers of Jesus today, we must always remember what it means to follow in His footsteps.  In our world, comfort has become a socially acceptable “idol” that thousands of Christians look to in making decisions in their life.  Comfort is what drives people to make lots of money, hoard earthly belongings, and become selfish and calloused to the needs of others.  This is especially the case living in America. Trust me; I know.  I live in it everyday.

But as disciples of Jesus, we are challenged to not look to the idol of comfort when we make our choices.  Instead, we are called to fix our eyes on Jesus.  The same Jesus that tells us that discipleship is a long, painful process that ultimately leads to mortifying the evil desires of our heart, and learning to embrace suffering as a path to glory, immortality, and redemption.

Being a Christian does not mean that we will have a full bank account, be physically healthy, and feel happiness all the time.  Following Jesus usually makes life harder since He calls us to live and die like Him.  But if we share in that suffering, we will also share in His glory.  And He promises us it’ll all be worth it.

Do you believe Him?

22 March
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Living in the Age of Grace – Luke 9:51-56

Luke 9:51-56 – Listen

 51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

Starting at this point, the thrust of the Gospel leads Jesus closer and closer to the cross.  Every event that happens in Jesus’ ministry leads Him toward Jerusalem where God had called Him to be a sacrifice for the sin of the world.  Along the way to the cross, Jesus continues to preach a message of good news:  All people are invited to share in God’s forgiveness.  When the disciples seek to bring judgment to a city that rejects Jesus, Jesus is quick to rebuke them.  He makes it clear that His first coming into the world was to bring peace, grace and forgiveness, not judgment.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

At this point, Jesus already knows that His Father has called Him to sacrifice His life.  And Jesus has a real decision to make: follow His divine calling to die on the cross to bring redemption to us… or opt out of the rescue mission, take the easy road, and avoid suffering, pain, and death.

Jesus thought about you all those years ago.  He thought about you as He considered His two options.  And deep within His heart, He believed that you were worth dying for.  An all-knowing, all-powerful God, thought about you and willingly sacrificed Himself so that you could be His forever.  He saw the horror of the cross, yet it was a price He was glad to pay to forgive you and adopt you as a son or daughter.

We worship and follow a God who loves us more than we could ever begin to imagine.  Don’t ever allow yourself to forget the love that is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Jesus taught His disciples that they live in an age of grace.  All judgment from God is being withheld until Jesus’ Second Coming when He will appear, not as the gentle Lamb of God, but as the Conquering King who will bring swift and severe judgment to the faithless and reward the faithful.

Just like Jesus’ disciples, we still live in this age of grace.  Vengeance does not belong to us, it belongs to God.  Although its tempting to take matters into our own hands, we are called to bear with one another, loving the world despite it’s hatred of us.  And all along the way, we carry Jesus’ message of grace and forgiveness.  This message is an urgent message to a world of darkness.  This is a message that is only good for a limited time.  This is a message that we, as believers, must always have ready on our lips.  I encourage you today: speak words of grace and forgiveness.  Let God be your Avenger.

21 March
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Dealing With Other People’s Success – Luke 9:49-50

Luke 9:49-50 – Listen

49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

As Jesus’ ministry grows in influence, other people outside of his inner circle begin to partner with Him, casting out demons and healing the sick.  The apostles see another believer casting out demons and they attempt to stop him, but Jesus corrects them and teaches that any believers who work in His name are all on the same team.  The narrator doesn’t explain why the disciples get upset about seeing this exorcism, but the context of this passage suggests that the disciples were getting competitive over who was the greatest among the followers of Jesus.  They probably didn’t appreciate someone else getting the lime light.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Sometimes, its easy to overlook a simple truth in this passage:  The unnamed person was casting out demons in Jesus’ name.  The source of this power was not in the exorcist himself, but in the power of Jesus Christ.  The only reason why this exorcist experienced success in his ministry was because he had the understanding Jesus alone had the power to cure the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons.  Successful ministry is not sourced in having the right words, being socially powerful or being wealthy.  Success in ministry is being intimately connected to Jesus Christ and ministering from faith in the Son of God.  It was true back then and its still true today.  No meaningful ministry happens apart from an obedient faith in Jesus Christ.  It takes the weight off of our shoulders and put it on God, who has the power to do things that we could never do ourselves.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

In this passage, the disciples complained to Jesus because they were envious and frustrated with another believer who was having success in their ministry.  They saw this exorcist as a threat because he wasn’t apart of their small, elite group and so they immediately judged him without giving him a chance.  In the process, they lost the opportunity to partner with another believer who could have helped them along with their own ministry.

Have you ever had an experience where you feel like someone else is getting the glory and honor that you deserve?  Do you ever feel frustrated sharing in success?

When those feelings of envy come, sometimes we hear Jesus words spoken to us:  “the one who is not against you is for you.”  Jesus taught His disciples that they never needed to compare themselves to other people, especially if they are all working toward the same goal.  Are you able to thank God for success that someone else is experiencing?

20 March
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The Least and the Greatest – Luke 9:46-48

Luke 9:46-48 – Listen

46 An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

As Jesus grows in popularity and fame, His disciples begin to fight among themselves.  Getting caught up in the hype of Jesus’ ministry, they begin to think about what they can get out of it.  They start comparing themselves to one another and eventually start arguing about who is the greatest among them.  In verse 47, Jesus gives them a vivid example of what it means to be great according to the rules of the Kingdom of Heaven.  By embracing and accepting a child, He teaches the disciples that the greatest in the Kingdom of God are the ones who care for the “unimportant” and marginalized in society.  Children during Jesus day would have been considered one of the lowest and least important members of society.  But Jesus shows that caring deeply for those without power or authority is the key to being powerful in the Kingdom of God.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Jesus consistently expressed care for those who were the most vulnerable and powerless.  He cared deeply about orphans and widows and sought to bring them mercy and justice because they could not defend themselves.  God’s care for the disenfranchised is one of the chief characteristics that He expresses all throughout the Bible.  In the Old Testament, there are countless laws that ensured the safety of the orphans and widows in Israel.  In the New Testament, Jesus put flesh and bone on the heart of God.  He shows love, tenderness and mercy to the fatherless and widowed.  Col. 1:15 says Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  How comforting it is to know that when we see Jesus loving and caring for His people, that is the physical manifestation of the love that God has always felt for us.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Jesus looked into the disciples’ hearts and helped them to see something that they had become blind to.  Lost in the rush of miraculous healings, exorcisms, fame, and a growing ministry, the disciples had lost sight of what was going on inside their hearts.  And as those sinful desires when unchecked, it caused conflict, resentments and arguments.  Living in our world today, we feel a similar pressure to go go go!  We get lost in our work and barely have enough time to process our days, much less examine our hearts.

Have you been so busy with life that you haven’t had a check to check what’s in your heart?  What do you think can be gained by spending time with Jesus, allowing him to disclose the “reasoning of your heart”?

19 March
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Resistance on the Road to the Cross – Luke 9:37-45

Luke 9:37-45 – Listen

37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.38 And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. 40 And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God.  But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples,44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

After experiencing God’s empowering confirmation in the Transfiguration, Jesus is immediately confronted with demonic resistance.  As Jesus continues to move forward in His rescue plan to save the world, Satan and his demons attempt to hinder Jesus any way possible.  Jesus’ road of the cross on Calvary is littered with obstacles, both human and demonic.

In this story, the disciples of Jesus were unable to cast out the demon on their own authority, so the father of the demon-possessed boy seeks Jesus’ help.  After Jesus banishes the demon, the people “marvel” at His power.  This marveling is not because they see Jesus through a lens of faith, but instead because they see an opportunity to get what they want out of Jesus.  The crowds here are more than ready to make Jesus king over them, but that was not the purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world.  So in verse 43, Jesus again warns His followers that His calling from God is not to be a political ruler, but a sacrifice who would suffer a horrific death to save the world from sin.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

When I think about Jesus, I feel awe considering all the things that He gave up to our rescue.  He gave up comfort, pleasure, peace, and everything that comes with living in heaven.  He had no fear, no pain, no frustration.  He didn’t have to deal with frustrating narrow-minded people.  He didn’t have any reason to feel hunger, pain, exhaustion, or stress.  As God in heaven, He didn’t have to worry about guilt, shame or death.  But Jesus set aside all those divine privileged to die on a cross for us.  He suffered as one of us so that He could sympathize with us through every trial and temptation we face in our lives.

An infinite, transcendent, and omnipotent God took on our flesh so He could be like one of us.  And in the ultimate form of love, He experienced a horrible unjust death for our sake.  In this great exchange, our judgment sin and death was handled once and for all by Jesus Christ.  He gave up so much for our sake, and we have every reason in the world to be humbled and thankful for His perfect sacrifice.

The Redeemed LifeGrow

The people in this story did not really appreciate Jesus for who He was.  They saw Him as a means rather than an end.  They wanted to use Jesus for His power and authority, much like a genie in a bottle.  They didn’t care much about His agenda, but rather sought out ways that Jesus could help them accomplish their own agenda.

How do you see Jesus?  Is He simply an “answerer of prayer” or is He the King and ruler of your heart?  Do you pray to God seeking Him to fulfill your agenda or do you pray that His Kingdom and will be fulfilled through your life?  Do you approach God with a demanding attitude, or do you approach Him as a humble servant?

As you read this passage, as yourself:  What’s in your heart when you approach the throne of grace?

18 March
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The Transfiguration – Luke 9:28-36

Luke 9:28-36 – Listen

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah,31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This passage marks one of the most important events in Jesus’ ministry – the Transfiguration.  This was an event where all Persons of the Trinity together confirm, honor and support Jesus.  In verse 35, the voice of the Father from Heaven echoes His previous declaration at Jesus’ baptism: Jesus is the beloved Son.  The cloud that overshadowed them is an ancient reference to the Holy Spirit of God who frequently manifested Himself as clouds of mist and fire in the Old Testament.  We even see a preview of the Exalted Christ radiating forth from our humble Jesus.

Jesus also has a chance to meet Moses and Elijah – two of the most important characters of the Old Testament.  Moses is the embodiment of the Law given by God.  Elijah was the prophet par excellence, doing some of the most amazing miracles that this world has ever seen.  When Moses and Elijah speak to Jesus, they spoke of His “departure” (in Greek, “Exodus”) which was to take place in Jerusalem.  Much like the Exodus of the Old Testament, this event would forever change the lives of God’s people.  In the Exodus of the Old Testament, the people were given a way to receive God’s forgiveness through the sacrifice of a lamb.  Now all people, Jew and Gentle, slave and free, man and woman, are also able to participate in the Exodus of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Luke keeps adding more and more information to answer the question: “who is this?” Peter answered correctly, and now God Himself confirms it:  Jesus is God’s own Son, the Messiah and Redeemer of the world.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

As Peter wakes to see this miraculous scene, He probably isn’t thinking straight when He suggests that they build 3 tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  Peter didn’t quite understand what was before his eyes.  These three men were not equals, and God Himself corrects Peter’s false belief:  “This is my beloved Son!  LISTEN TO HIM!!!”  The emphasis from God Himself is that Jesus is the highest authority this world will ever know!  While Moses and Elijah do indeed contribute to the written Word of God, Jesus Christ is the supreme source of all authority and understanding, especially when it comes to understanding the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament.Thank God we stand on this side of the cross!  We don’t need to be confused about the cryptic prophecies of the Old Testament, because in Jesus Christ we see with noon-day clarity the mysteries of God.  Jesus is our Interpreter, Teacher, and Master.  Through Him alone do we understand and live and function as members of God’s Kingdom.

The Redeemed LifeGrow

Many years later, when Peter writes about His experince of knowing the truth, he references this very moment when he became sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, the Annointed Redeemer of the world.  Out of the many miraculous things that Peter experinced while living with Jesus, this is the defining moment that forever confirmed his faith that Jesus is indeed God’s beloved Son.

What life experince do you point back to when people ask about your faith?  What was the confirming moment when you decided that it was worth it to throw away your old life and follow Jesus Christ?  As Peter, James and John reflected on this experince with Jesus, it forver transformed their life as followers.  What transforming moment to you dwell on to grow in your faith?
17 March
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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

In a day and age where St. Patrick’s day means running long marathons, drinking (too much) alcohol, and finding a reason to call in sick on Monday, let us not forget the great man who gives us cause to celebrate today.  Take some time and just for a few minutes, learn about the amazing missionary who gave up so much, sharing his faith for the Kingdom of God.  Below is the Prayer of St. Patrick:

As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.

May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.

May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.

May Christ shield me today.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Amen.

Have a blessed rest of your weekend!  Be wise and be safe!  See you tomorrow!

15 March
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The Well Paved Path to the Cross – Luke 9:21-27

Luke 9:21-27 – Listen

21 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

After Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus goes on to tell them that His mission on earth will lead him to the cross.  The path of the long-awaited Messiah was not what Jewish nation was expecting.  He was not coming as a military leader.  He was not coming to bring about a political revolution.  He was coming to die a criminal’s death.  And somehow, by the power of God,  that death would be used as a means of achieving eternal life and victory for God’s people.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

As followers of Jesus, we are called to follow His same path of self-sacrifice.  The road to glory is not through social reform, political power, or worldly power and authority.  The path of victory for Christians is the path of self-denial… a daily sacrifice of oneself out of love for their friends.  When Jesus described the greatest love in the world, He described it as self-sacrifice.  In Jesus’ life and death, we have the highest expression of love this world has ever seen.  In Jesus, God Himself takes the bullet for us, sacrificing Himself out of love for us.

The Redeemed Life – Grow
One of our primary tasks in this world is faithfully giving a testimony about what Jesus has done in our lives.  As we reflect on this passage, its not just a feel good task which Jesus rewards with gold stars.  Our testimony about Jesus Christ today directly determines how Jesus will speak of us on the final day of judgment.  If we speak about Jesus with boldness and pride, then He too will proudly speak of us as sons and daughters before God the Father.  But if we are ashamed of being called by His name; if we are unwilling to identify with Him, then in the same way, He will deny us on the day of judgment.
Does this passage bring you comfort, or does it make you feel unsettled?  Do Jesus words sound ominous and threatening or do they encourage you?  Jesus was indeed a gentle and loving teacher, but He also brought severe warnings to His people.  It is no easy task to follow His footsteps.
Today, listen to Jesus words.  Allow yourself to feel the full impact of this teaching.  I pray that you find comfort in His words, and that together as a community of disciples, we can carry our crosses and follow after our beautiful Savior and God.  The road is hard and painful, but we One who has gone before us.  He leads us down a path that looks like death to this world, but we know it leads to glory, honor and everlasting life.
14 March
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The Most Important Question in the World – Luke 9:18-20

Luke 9:18-20 – Listen

18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them,“Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This passage marks another milestone in Jesus’ ministry:  the disciples understand that Jesus is God’s Anointed (in Greek – “Christ”, in Hebrew – “Messiah”).  This Anointed One of God was the hope and expectation of the entire Old Testament, and the Jews of that time knew that the coming of this Messiah would mean permanent and eternal liberation from God’s enemies.  For many Jews during Jesus’ time, the assumption was that the Messiah would be a social and political leader who would shake off the chains of Roman oppression.  In truth, the liberation of God addressed more than just social freedom, but freedom from the bondage of sin and death.  One day Jesus will indeed free humanity from political and social oppression, but His Mission as Jesus of Nazareth was a road that would lead Him to the cross, giving us spiritual freedom and abundant life.

Just like many other significant events in Jesus life, this revelation comes after spending time in prayer.  When Jesus approaches the question of who He is, He starts by asking a broad question (“who do the crowds say that I am?”), and then moves to asking a personal and direct question (“who do you say that I am?”).  Jesus knows that no one will be able to recognize Him as the Messiah of God unless God open their eyes to seeing Him as He is.  Peter, representing the disciples, correctly answers the question when He confesses Jesus is the Christ, the Sent One from God to save the world.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about Jesus.  Some like Him, some hate Him, some are apathetic about Him.  Many people are able to acknowledge that He was a great man, a moral teacher, a good example, etc.  And although they are able to state facts that they’ve learned about Him, most people have not been able to confess the most important thing about Jesus:  He is the Christ, the Son of God, who forgives us of our sins and revives us to new life with each other and with God.

It is my firm conviction that God alone opens blind eyes to seeing this truth.  It is the Holy Spirit who can raise our dead hearts to life, giving us a passion and desire to follow Jesus as Lord and King.  It is God who can give us this insight and understand.  Everyone else is blinded by the veil of unbelief which Jesus alone can remove.

If you love Jesus, then I thank God that He has lifted that veil, so we can together joyfully confess that Jesus is the Christ of God.  I worship the God who has not left us in our ignorance and unbelief, but has gifted us with eternal life here and now.  Sometimes knowing Jesus becomes a mundane thing, but refresh yourself in the truth – it is an honor and privilege to be in this faith by His grace.

The Redeemed Life – Grow
Jesus’ question echoes through the Scriptures and confronts us today.  “Who do you say that I am?”  It doesn’t matter what other people say about it.  It doesn’t matter what your friends say about it.  It doesn’t matter what your family says about it.  What matters is what you say about Him.  His question is the most important question in the world – its personal, and its something that each of us will have to answer for ourselves.
So I’d like to ask you two things:
How do you answer that question today?
Does your life reflect your answer to that question?
13 March
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Feeding Body and Soul – Luke 9:10-17

Luke 9:10-17 – Listen

10 On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. 12 Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 And they did so, and had them all sit down. 16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

After a successful mission of spreading the Word of God and healing the people, the disciples tried to privately meet with Jesus to talk about their experiences.  But after being found by the crowds, Jesus has compassion on the people and continues ministering to them through teaching and healing.  As the day draws on, the disciples think its a good time to have the crowds break to find food.  In response, Jesus tells them to take care of the crowds.

I can only imagine how the disciples felt having their Master give them such an impossible task.  Nervous.  Worried about the budget.  Doubt.

Again, Jesus uses this as a teachable moment to show a physical reality about Kingdom of God: God will richly provide for His people, both physically and spiritually.  The feeding of the 5,000 is reminicent of the Old Testament miracles where God provided “manna” for the Israelite people to sustain them for 40 years of wondering through the desert.  Looking forward, Jesus’ miraculous feeding foreshadows the final commemoration of His ultimate provision for His people – in Communion, Jesus not only provides the bread, but gives His physical body as a sacrifice for us to consume so we can be spiritually satisfied.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Humans are unique creatures – hybrids of flesh and spirit.  We are unlike angels and demons, who are purely spiritual beings.  We are unlike the materialistic things of this world which have substance, yet no spirit.  In ministering to humanity, Jesus chooses to interact with us on a spiritual level as well as a physical level.  And in Communion, we have a unique opportunity to interact with God on multiple dimensions.  The bread we eat is physical, but in a mysterious way its also spiritually the body of Christ.  Through Communion, we are fed and sustained – body and soul.

It seems that in Communion, God gifted us with a way to connect with him in a holisitic way.  Every part of our being (physical and spiritual) is invited to taste and savor Jesus Christ.  In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus shows that He will not only meet the physical needs of those who follow Him, but on a deeper level, He will be to them the Bread of Life.  Those who feast on the Word of God will never hunger for the things of this world again.  Those with a refined spiritual palate will know the best food in the world is nothing less than Jesus Christ.  Feast and enjoy!  The table is open.

The Redeemed Life – Grow
Eating is such an important part of life.  As people, we eat together for almost every reason imaginable: to celebrate, or mourn, as a pass time, to express care, etc.  When God feeds us, we find points of contact with the divine meets the human… where the invisible meets the invisible… where the holy meets the corrupted.
Some theologians have gone so far to say that God created hunger and food, so that we can physically understand our spiritual need to be fulfilled by God.
Today, when you feel that desire to eat, be reminded that you have a deeper spiritual hunger that needs to be fulfilled within your soul.  Remember that God has given you physical blessings, and He also provides you with spiritual blessings that are readily available.  Keep yourself healthy!  Feed your body and your soul!