The Unknown God

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Photo:  Joe Walsh Tours

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious;  for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:  TO THE UNKNOWN GOD…” – Acts 17:22, 23

One of my favorite sermons of the apostle Paul’s was the one he made at the Areopagus.  When he was in Athens and he saw the idols, he was provoked.  He wasted no time talking to the people, both Jews and Gentiles about Jesus and His resurrection.  That got the attention of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers and they were curious about what he was talking about.  Some called him a “babbler” while others perceived that he was preaching about foreign gods.  So, they took him to the Areopagus and asked him, “what this new doctrine is of which you speak?  For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.”  That’s how they spent their time–standing around and telling about or listening to new things.

This was a perfect opportunity for Paul to talk to them about the true God whom they called, “the unknown God”.  So, he stood in their midst and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus said would “teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12).  Paul starts out by acknowledging that the people were very religious and that he was considering the objects of their worship.  He mentioned the altar with the inscription:  TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.  He then proceeded to tell them about the God whom they were worshipping in ignorance.

God who made the world and all that is in it, being Lord of both Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands, nor is he ministered to by human hands, as though he had need of anything—seeing that he is the one who gives to all men life and breath and everything else.” 

Unlike the other gods, we shouldn’t imagine God as being like gold, silver, or stone, or is an image carved by humans using their own imagination and skill. Idols cannot see, hear, talk or move.  They have to be taken up and carried around.  Why would anyone worship gods made by people when they could worship the true, living God? 

Paul informed his audience that “God tolerated man’s past ignorance about these things, but now he commands everyone to put away idols and worship only him.  For he has set a day for justly judging the world by the man he has appointed, and has pointed him out by bringing him back to life again” (Acts 17:22:31). 

When he mentioned the resurrection, some of the people laughed but others wanted to hear more.  A few, however, joined him and became believers, among them was Dionysius, a member of the court of Areopagus and a woman named Damaris

When it comes to sharing our faith with others, we will encounter the skeptics and opposition but we will also find those who will believe and accept the message.  What Paul did that day was worth the ones who wanted to hear more and the few who believed.  God will present us with opportunities to tell others about Him.  We just have to be open and willing like Paul.

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Blue Letter Bible

The Storms

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God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble – Psalm 46:1

Some trials are like thunderstorms—ephemeral—they come suddenly and then are gone within a short time.  Other trials linger until we wonder if we will ever come out of them.  During those times, what do we do?  Do we let ourselves be overcome or do we cry out to the Lord for help.  He promised, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14).

Whether the storms we face in life are ephemeral or lasting, we have the assurance that they will pass and that we are not going through them alone.

And when we turn to the Lord and trust in Him as we go through these storms, in return He will impart His peace which is unlike anything we will ever experience.  It guards our hearts and our minds as they rest in Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for Saturday’s prompt, Peace; Sunday’s prompt, Help and today’s prompt, Ephemeral.  If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway

The Empty Tomb

Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb – John 20:1

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On the first day of the week when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb she found the stone rolled away.  She went straightaway to let Peter and John know.  They ran to the tomb.  John got there first but didn’t go inside.  Instead, he stooped down and looked in.  He saw that the tomb was empty.  Only the linen cloths were lying there. When Peter reached the tomb, he went inside.

He saw the linen cloths lying there and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.  John entered the tomb saw and believed.  Then, the two disciples left and went back to their homes while Mary remained outside the tomb, weeping.  She had no idea what had happened to her Lord.  She believed that, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”  By “They” she might have been referring to the guards posted outside the tomb although I’m not sure why they would have moved the body.  Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would have had no reason to move it either.

This morning when I read this, it dawned on me that the folded linen handkerchief which had been wrapped around Jesus’ head disproved the idea that His disciples had stolen the body at night while the guards slept.  If that were true, they would not have had time to unwrap the body, neatly fold the cloths and then carry the body away.  And the fact that the disciples were assembled in a room, fearful of the Jews, also disproves the notion that they would risk being caught stealing Jesus’ body.

The empty tomb and folded cloths speak volumes of the resurrection of Christ.  Today, let us rejoice that our Lord lives and that one day He will appear a second time to those who look for Him, not to deal with sin, but to bring them to full salvation (Hebrews 9:28).

Redeemed

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Mark 15:34

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When Jesus was on the cross, He was mocked.  Those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”  The religious leaders joined in the ridicule as well, saying, He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  It must have been painful for Jesus to hear them say those things.  These were the same people of whom Jesus asked of God, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

They had no idea of what was really at stake.  They were mocking Jesus about not saving Himself not realizing that wasn’t His purpose at all.  As He pointed out at the time of His arrest, if He wanted to spare Himself the agony of the Cross, “…do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?  How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Matthew 26:53, 54). 

Had Jesus come down from the cross to save Himself, we would all be lost and eternally separated from God.  Love for the Father and us kept Jesus on that cross.  He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.  He was the Savior of the world.  God sent Him to die in our stead so that we could have everlasting life.  John 3:16 puts it so beautifully, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” When God sent Jesus into the world, it wasn’t to condemn the world but to save it through Him (Verse 17, NKJV).  The cross is our salvation and evidence of God’s incredible love for us. 

As much as it pains me to see Jesus hanging from the cross whenever I watch a biblical movie about His life, it reminds me of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Verses 14 & 15). 

Sin separates us from God.  When Jesus was on the cross, bearing our sins, He was separated from the Father.  That was why He cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).  Jesus became the Sin-bearer and it was that sin that the Father condemned.  Jesus was forsaken for our sake so that we would be forgiven for our sins once we accept His atoning work on the cross.

How terrible it is to be separated from our heavenly Father.  This sobering thought should motivate us not to live any longer like other people in the world do but to live as Jesus did–in loving obedience to the Father.  He was obedient even on to death.

Jesus laid down His life for us to show His love.  How can we return this love?  We do so by obeying Him and having faith in Him.  Today and everyday, let us live our lives for the One who willingly went to and stayed on that cross so that He could redeem us to God by His blood (Revelation 5:9).  Our redemption came a great cost (1 peter 1:18-19).

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed thro’ His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am – Hymn #338

True Greatness

After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded – John 13:5

 

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Today, I watched the movie, The Gospel of John.  Before Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover on the night before His crucifixion, He did something none of the others expected.  Jesus got up from the table, removed his outer garment, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  He put some water into a large bowl. Then he began washing his disciples’ feet and drying them with the towel he was wearing. 

To say that the disciples were shocked would be an understatement.  They probably felt uncomfortable too.  This was their Master, their Lord, doing the work of a servant.  Imagine Jesus, the Son of God, getting down on His knees to wash their dirty.  

When the apostles got into an argument about which one of them was the greatest, Jesus told them, “Foreign kings order their people around, and powerful rulers call themselves everyone’s friends.  But don’t be like them. The most important one of you should be like the least important, and your leader should be like a servant.  Who do people think is the greatest, a person who is served or one who serves? Isn’t it the one who is served? But I have been with you as a servant” (Luke 22:25-27).  Jesus was the greatest among them but He was a Servant to them.  This isn’t surprising because He said of Himself, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Jesus explained to the disciples, Whichever one of you is the most humble is the greatest” (Luke 9:48, CEV).  Jesus demonstrated this when He washed their feet.  Still, Peter didn’t understand and when it was his turn to get his feet washed, he asked, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” (John 13:6)

Jesus answered, “You don’t really know what I am doing, but later you will understand” (Verse 7).

Peter’s response was,  “You will never wash my feet!” (Verse 8)

And when Jesus told him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me,” Peter wanted Jesus to wash his feet, hands and head too.  He went from one extreme to the next.  That’s typical Peter.

When Jesus was done washing their feet, He explained why He did it.  “Do you understand what I did for you? You call me ‘Teacher.’ And you call me ‘Lord.’ And this is right, because that is what I am. I am your Lord and Teacher. But I washed your feet. So you also should wash each other’s feet. I did this as an example for you. So you should serve each other just as I served you” (Verses 12-15, NKJV).  

In God’s eyes, true greatness is found in humility and in the willingness to serve others just as Jesus did.

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Blue Letter Bible

A Promise Fulfilled

“Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me, I have seen the Savior you have given to all people.  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:29-32)

These are the words of a man named Simeon who was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue His people. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. He got his wish.

The Holy Spirit led Simeon to the temple the very same day that Jesus was dedicated to the Lord. How wonderful! God had fulfilled His promise to Simeon.

Simeon was overjoyed when he saw the Infant Savior. How his heart must have leapt with joy as he held Jesus in his arms and gazed down into that tiny face. He blessed Joseph and Mary. He said to Mary, “This Child will be rejected by many in Israel, and it will be their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy to many others.”

For many of us, Jesus is the greatest joy. He brought us hope, love, peace and the promise of eternal life.  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, proclaimed, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited His people and redeemed them.  He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of His servant David, just as He promised through His holy prophets long ago” (Luke 1:68-70).

What a wonderful promise!  During the Christmas season, imagine what it must have been like for Simeon to see the Lord face to face and to realize that the Lord had kept him alive for just that moment.  Simeon had seen salvation.  He had seen the promise of eternal life before he died.  God had promised His people salvation and then He fulfilled that promise through His Son, Jesus.

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The Better Choice

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” – Luke 10:41, 42

Years ago, I had two choices–study my Bible or watch TV.  Unfortunately, I chose to watch TV. This happened after I spoke to my son about making better choices. Before putting him to bed, I read the story of when Jesus visited Martha’s house.

Martha welcomed Jesus before she was back in the kitchen, preparing a big meal for Him and His disciples. Her sister, Mary, however, went into the sitting room where Jesus was and sat at His feet. She listened as He taught the Word. Meanwhile, Martha was busy, distracted and stressed out as she tried to get things ready for her guests. I can just imagine her fuming and fretting because she was doing all the work.

After a while she marched out of the kitchen and approached Jesus, demanding, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” Why did she go to Him instead of going to Mary directly? It’s possible that she thought that Jesus would get better results.

The way she spoke to Jesus comes across as rude but Jesus wasn’t offended. Instead, He chastised her gently. She was focusing on what was not important. She was distracted. Mary, on the other hand, had made the better choice. She chose to spend time with Jesus, listening to His Word instead of being in the kitchen. She chose worship over service. She put Jesus first. Jesus commended her for putting fellowship with Him above feeding Him.

Can you imagine Martha’s reaction to what Jesus said to her? How would you have reacted if you were in her place? Walk off in a huff, furious because Jesus was taking Mary’s side? Or admit that He had a point. She was getting herself bent out of shape, trying to get the food ready and Jesus was in no hurry to eat.

What do you think Martha should have done? I think she should have done what Mary did. Go and spend time with Jesus and listen to His Word. And when He was finished, then she and Mary serve the food together.

What things are distracting you? Is it work, blogging, texting, TV, household chores, church ministries? I encouraged my son not to be so distracted with playing that he neglects to spend time with the Lord. Like Mary, choose to sit at Jesus’ feet and don’t allow anything or anyone to distract you. Don’t replace worship with service.

 

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