Unforgettable Meals

It was a meal they would never forget. It is one we remember often. The Last Supper. There Christ taught His disciples a new feast. The feast, not of the Passover, but the feast of the Lord’s body and blood. Communion. The Lord’s Table. We remember it with majesty and sobriety. It does not fill us with bread but with humility and joy. It should be the most important dinner date on your calendar as a believer. Too many treat the Lord’s command to attend this meal “until He returns” forgetfully. It may not be the gourmet feast we Americans revel in as the world’s upper crust of the 21st century but it is the richest and most costly table fare you can ever partake of. For you and I, unforgettable is what it should be.

Another unforgettable meal was the one after the Last Supper. Do you think the apostles and followers of Jesus had much of an appetite on Friday? Could they even think of food during the betrayal, persecution, and crucifixion of their Lord? It’s easy to imagine they fasted unintentionally. Yet,sooner or later they had to eat. And the first time they sat down to eat without Him who had been the center and core of their lives for the three plus years, had to be a struggle. Did they even know how to arrange the seating? Who was the honored guest now? The head of the table? Whose words would they bend forward to catch? They undoubtedly thought of the last meal they had with Him – the Passover. From the gospel narratives, we know they were filled with fear. Questions big as trains rumbled through their minds and their unnerved souls were trying to find a truth they could lean on, hold to, or cling to. Sitting down to eat without Him was an unforgettable experience I’m sure. Like the meals we have with our families following the funerals of loved ones. Poignant, lonely, emotional, powerful, needful. It is not remembered for who was there so much as for who was not.

And what of the first meal after His resurrection? Unforgettable, He appears through the wall and into their presence. He demands food  and reveals fresh wounds proving His flesh and blood humanity is genuine. He calms their fears. Thomas returns to the fold. Questions are answered even as new questions begin to surface. Who could ever forget that meal?

As we eat tomorrow with family and friends, it should be memorable. Not because of the ham and its trimmings.  (What a meal to celebrate the greatest Jew who ever lived. Where did that tradition come from? Maybe it has to do with being set free from the Law by the Christ or something.) No, it’s not the food. It’s the occasion. And the occasion is not just getting the weekend off nor getting the family together. No, the occasion is the resurrection of the anointed Servant of Jehovah from the dead. He lives and we rejoice. We do it tomorrow with ham, family, and friends but we often do it with broken bread and a single cup also.  We remember not only that He died but that He lives and is coming again.  And then we will do it with Him in the Kingdom. And all these meals are merely prelude to that unforgettable feast in glory. A meal that will be eternally recalled by the perpetual union of bride and Groom. He loved us. He became one of us. He became sin for us. He rose for us. He is bread for us. Our souls will feast forever on this unforgettable meal.

P.S. Yes, she is my daughter but if I did not think it would do you good, I would not recommend her blog.  Her recollection of another unforgettable meal in the life of Christ got me thinking about these. Find it at . . .

http://annalisaphillipswilson.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/this-girl-got-it/

Friday’s Forgiveness

This morning I came across one of America’s favorite psychobabbles. There it was, right in the middle of an online “bio.” Speaking of recent changes for the good in their personal life, the person testified, “First, I had to learn to forgive myself.” This was the pivot point for them in their journey. The moment that “changed” them. It stands to reason, when most people say this, they simply mean that they have finally dealt with an issue of personal guilt. However, this post-modern mantra implies that being forgiven by myself matters more than being forgiven by God. On this Good Friday, as our Savior hung on the cross almost 2000 years ago, I find it ironic and tragic that our perception of forgiveness and reconciliation has become so self-centered. Ironic because this is not the gospel we believe – He died so we could be forgiven by God, not ourselves. And tragic because many, even believers, live in self-sufficiency and, therefore, without the true freedom of God’s forgiveness. Are we so unaware that we have offended God? As believers, are we so spiritually inside out that we fail to realize God’s opinion of our guilt matters more than ours? What a sharp contrast to my scripture reading this Good Friday morning and to what Christ said from the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Notice, Christ did not pray, “Father, help these men to forgive themselves.” It is clear from His statement that these men did not yet understand the wrong they had done. He did pray, “ . . . they know not what they do.” He knew they lacked any objective realization of what they had done and to Whom they had done it. Though somewhere down the road in life, they may come to grips with the reality of the immense crime committed in destroying the life of an innocent man, His prayer was not focused on their mental health. It was focused on their relationship with God. Knowing His Father was offended, He prayed that God would forgive them. Jesus, full of grace, prayed that the Father would not deal with them according to their crime and wrong. Jesus, full of truth, made his plea of the one who had been sinned against, the Father, and asked Him to forgive. They needed God to forgive them. They did not need to forgive themselves. These hardened and calloused soldiers of Rome were not moping around the foot of the cross  feeling bad about what they had done. Jesus was not afraid for their happiness – or lack of it. He was fearful of God’s judgment falling on them before they found the very grace He was busy providing sinners like them.

In our self-centeredness, we act as though self is the judge who must be feared. As though our “law” must be satisfied before our guilt can be resolved. When some rationalization for our actions is finally conjured up from the recesses of our imagination, we feel guilt-free. Now we “understand” and can “forgive” ourselves. The truth is, our guilt cannot be resolved until we know that God has forgiven us. Accepting His judgment (not ours) as the final pronouncement is what sets our souls free from guilt and despair. The truth is, you cannot sentence yourself to Hell nor can you save yourself from Hell. God is the Creator of your soul and the chief One against whom you have sinned.

Why repeat this mantra because we fail to discern the worth of Christ. Our trouble with guilt and shame is not a failure to forgive ourselves so much as it is a failure to grasp the immense worth of the work of Christ on the cross. Why do we assume that our guilt cannot be resolved until we say so? Isn’t His work enough? Must we now do some other “work?” The Almighty has already crushed his infinite, eternal, Holy Son who lived the only life worthy of being lived on this planet in all of its history and we look for forgiveness in our own small, finite, sin-soaked souls? Why do we cheapen the worth of His perfect obedience from manger to cross and perfect suffering submission on the cross by saying we cannot “feel” forgiven until we say so? This is all a matter of faith. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14)

Your conscience, and mine, cannot be assuaged by trivial psycho-mechanisms, a too busy life of service to others, a contrived self-righteousness, the ideas of therapy, a mind-numbing drug, another Bud-lite, or a new thrill. Only God can put our consciences at peace. When we refuse to believe His word – His Gospel – and accept phony alternatives, we suffer the consequences. We find ourselves rushing, like the rest of the world, to find some spigot to stop the drip, drip, drip of private shame. Burying the angst for wrongdoing beneath anything other than the blood of Jesus only provides soil in which it nurtures its toxic roots to one day rise again and poison the soul. Our only hope is the pure forgiveness and cleansing of the blood of Jesus on Calvary. The old puritan preacher John Flavel had it right years ago. (He did not speak in psychobabble.)

“Is Christ dead? And did he die the violent, painful, shameful, cursed, slow, and lonely death of the cross? Then surely there is forgiveness with God, plenteous redemption for the greatest of sinners, who by faith apply the blood of the cross to their poor guilty souls.

There is sufficient power in the blood of the cross to wash away the greatest sins. Before the efficacy of this blood, guilt vanishes and shrinks away as the shadow before the glorious sun. Every drop of it has a voice, and speaks to the soul that sits trembling under its guilt better things than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 10:24). For having enough in it to satisfy God, it must needs have enough in it to satisfy conscience.

Can God exact satisfaction from the blood and death of his own Son, the surety of believers, and yet still demand it from believers? It cannot be.”(The Fountain of Life; www.firstimportance.org)

Would God ask for some other effort on your part before you could be forgiven? “It cannot be.” You have been forgiven. Believe it! Why should we profane and cheapen the inestimable and costly treasure of such a rich offering as given by the bloodied second member of the Trinity? It seems profane to proclaim “I could not find forgiveness and freedom from guilt until I forgave myself?” Did I die for the sin or did I commit the sin? I did the sin, but praise God, He did the dying! May God bring back the day in our churches where we hear that lives were transformed when “Jesus forgave me!” rather than when “I forgave myself.” After all, we sing it. Our favorite lyrics speak of His forgiveness and His grace — not ours! If we would live what we sing, we could change the world. Repeating post-modern, emptied of truth mantras, does not shine light. My life changed when I accepted the forgiveness offered me by God through Jesus. How about you? Tell someone today. After all, it’s Good Friday!

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

Thursday’s Song Service

This year, our Easter week coincides with the Hebrew Passover celebration. They do not always coincide on our modern calendar as they did on that first Easter. That is why the Last Supper is normally viewed as the Lord’s celebration of the Passover with His disciples. On Thursday of His passion week, He celebrated the Passover with His disciples with the Seder meal. Hopefully, you have been reading some of the gospel accounts of this week in the Lord’s life. Today I would suggest you read two passages that would help you recall and meditate on the Lord’s Thursday.

First, spend time reading John 13 – 16. Here you can read of the event as remembered by John. Being written later than the other gospels, John does not merely repeat but expands on what they have already written. His emphasis on Christ’s teachings on His last night with the apostles before his crucifixion is illuminating to anyone who wants to be used of God. In John’s gospel account, he spends twelve chapters revealing who Jesus is through a powerful display of signs and wonders and powerful claims (I Am) to deity. It is as though He is convincing people to come and believe in Jesus. Then, beginning with chapter thirteen, it is as though John now begins to exhort those who have come and believed to go and make disciples. Here he records for us the instructions given to the disciples on that last and fateful night before His crucifixion. These are important words and should be read and re-read by all believers. Christ’s example as a servant and then His multi-faceted teaching on the new covenant, the new commandment and a new relationship with the Spirit will bless and equip you.

Also, consider spending some time in the “Hallel Psalms.” Psalms 113 – 118 were commonly sung (and still are) by Hebrew families during the Seder service at Passover on Thursday night (a High Sabbath). We assume that Jesus sang some or all of these with the disciples. As you read them, certain verses should jump off the page at you. These verses are prophetic, messianic, and especially poignant because they were sung by Christ to His Father on the night of his betrayal. Imagine Christ lifting His voice along with Peter, James, John, Thomas and the rest and singing these verses form His heart:

The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD.    (Psalm 115:17-18)

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.    (Psalm 116:15)

This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.   (Ps. 118:23-24)

O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us:and the truth of the LORD endureth forever. Praise ye the LORD.    (Psalm 117)

Read with your Bible marker in hand. Some of these verses will comfort and counsel your own heart.

Tuesday’s Passion

One of the most interesting days during the last week of Jesus’ life was Tuesday. Interesting, that is, to those who like to learn for it was a day of teaching. On Tuesday He delivered His scathing sermon denouncing the religious leaders (Matt. 23). The “woes” poured out on the Scribes and Pharisees revealed their religion to be all about themselves. Consumed with perfection, obedience to tradition, and subsequent self-righteousness, they had little concern for anybody else or for God’s glory. Another major sermon, preached at Mount Olivet (Matt. 24-25), taught He would return someday as King (the Second Coming). Parables of warning about that return (the vineyards, the talents, the ten virgins) were also on His agenda.

There were some unplanned moments such as when the Jewish parties schemed to trap Him with questions. No problem for the Great Rabbi. He took time to ask His own question and trapped them instead. They could not answer Him or they would have revealed their motives. Having failed to trap Him, they retreated to plan another strategy to get rid of Jesus.

Later in the day, two events give us a glimpse of our Savior’s passion. One was true worship. I am speaking of the widow’s offering. Christ, who was overly familiar with false worship (Matt. 23) points His disciples to a worshiping widow. Finally, a true worshiper. Why? What qualified her measly gift as worthy worship? It was all she had. “This poor widow has put in more than all those. . . For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43-44) Total sacrifice made this pure worship. Here, the One who is about to make total sacrifice to the Father, is moved by her total sacrifice. She too understood how to worship His Father. She gave her all. I wonder, “Will I ever join the company of the widow and Jesus and offer pure and total sacrifice?” Rather than run a laundry list of motives that pass through my mind when called upon for sacrifice, suffice it to say that I too want recognition and comfort. Self seeks to exert itself over God. Even in worship. Worthy worship is not so easy as we think, is it? Even on Sunday mornings in our “go to meetin’ clothes.” But this poor lady modeled it perfectly enough that He, the Lamb, pointed to her as an example. This is a glimpse of His passion to come.

Also, note the occasion John speaks of when Greeks showed up trying to meet Jesus (12:20-36). Their arrival “troubled” Him. Literally, He was deeply and emotionally moved. The Greeks’ request caused Christ to recognize that the “hour” He had always defined as future had now become present. It pulls a prayer from His throat almost as by force. “Father, glorify your name.” And the Father answers audibly affirming the “hour’s” arrival and its sure success. The world (Greeks) seeking Him moved Christ to recognize the “hour “ to give Himself as the Lamb of God for the sins of the whole world had come (I John 2:1-2). His passion is deeply stirred.

These Tuesday events – a widow’s true worship through total sacrifice and a world needing His total sacrifice – give us a glimpse of His passion. It is a passion that will pour out in a hot torrent on Friday for Christ’s Calvary work was the most authentic worship ever offered on this earth to God. It was complete sacrifice for the glory of God. Jesus noticed that even a widow is able to offer such worship. Are we?

Monday of the Passion

And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; 16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. 17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. 18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. 19 And when even was come, he went out of the city. (Mark 11:15-19)

Mondays usually pass quietly for most people. Everybody is getting back into the routine at work and most are coming up to speed. Of course, the pace quickens through the day and week but Monday is usually one of the quieter days of the week. Not so for Jesus. Continue reading Monday of the Passion

Quit Giving Away Rubbish!

Most Bible believing Christians are in the habit of passing out a lot of rubbish. In doing so, they keep back what the world really needs from them. Yesterday in church, we looked at the vivid contrast between rubbish and righteousness found in Philippians 3:1-9. There are numerous applications to be found here – the main one being that real righteousness can be found only in God and granted to us through faith in Christ Jesus alone. However, the personal application I am making this morning is how eerily familiar Paul’s Pharisaical thinking is. It reflects how I sometimes think (and maybe you too?) and reveals that we give out a lot of rubbish. Continue reading Quit Giving Away Rubbish!

Loving Your Neighbor

Entering week two of my treatment is not a milestone, but it is a step toward the end. Six
more weeks of treatment will bring more side effects than I am presently experiencing,
but the present side-effects are sufficient to let me know that the radiation is doing
something! So far, the experience has been positive. The clinic and staff are professional,
well trained, and personable. Marcia and I feel secure under their care. But we are being
cared for by many more in in a number of ways. Prayers, words of encouragement, and
sacrifices made by others remind me daily of what it means to love your neighbor. Continue reading Loving Your Neighbor

Expecting Grace

Read this today and it blessed my heart:

“All honey would harm us; all wormwood would undo us; a composition of both is the best way to keep our souls in a healthy constitution. It is best and most for the health of the soul that the warm south wind of mercy and the cold north wind of adversity do both blow upon it. And though every wind that blows shall blow good to the saints, yet certainly their sins die most and their graces thrive best when they are under the frigid, drying, nipping north wind of calamity, as well as under the warm, nourishing south wind of mercy and prosperity.” (Thom. Brooks) Continue reading Expecting Grace