hope

Jesus Longs for You and Me

John Chapter 17 is a passage that is packed, pressed down, and running over with the most revealing truth about the heart of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the plans He has for you and me. Early in His earthly ministry, the disciples had asked Jesus to teach them to pray…(Luke 11:1). In response, Jesus gave them an outline of a model prayer. However, in John chapter 17, we are given an incredible opportunity that allows us to “hear” our Lord offer a life-changing, extraordinarily comprehensive High Priestly prayer for Himself, the early disciples, and the subsequent believers of all ages after them. In this prayer, Jesus gathered the entire human race into Himself and stood before the Father to make supplication on its behalf. “Father the hour has come…,” He began, (John 17:1). The hour for which Jesus came into the world was the hour He would leave it; the hour He would lay down His life for the seed of Adam; the hour He would be scourged, beaten, spat on and cruelly nailed on a Roman cross for you and I- a most ignominious death. This is the background against which this remarkable prayer was offered. Jesus was well aware that Satan was preparing to unleash his unbridled, vile force on him. So much was at stake. The redemption of the whole human race was the crux of the matter at that moment. Jesus turned to His Father. He needed to speak with One who understood the unfolding events; One from whom He could draw strength to endure the impending harrowing experience. That is why this prayer is unique. It is dense with emotion and passion, and fills the reader with wonder and adoration for our Savior and Lord.

In this prayer, Jesus made an astonishing request to His Father.  He said “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. ” (verse 24). Just pause for a while and contemplate on this stunning request and its staggering implications. Jesus, the Son of God, made this timeless request on your behalf and mine. He was calling you and I a gift to Him from His Father. Just think about the unparalleled worth this bestows on us. God saw you and I and decided to make us an eternal gift for His Son. We are God’s love gift to His only begotten Son. Jesus does not desire that we should be with Him because we have inherent goodness. It is because of His marvelously abundant grace. He loves us enough to want us to be with Him in glory!! In essence, He was saying to His disciples and to us who believe through them, “I will miss you and I want you with me where I will be.” How we all long to be wanted and loved not because of what we can give, but just for who we are. That the pre-existent second Person of the Godhead, the One through who all things were made, should think and long for your company and mine is a stunning thought. We were chosen before the foundation of the world and adopted of God so that, in the metaphor of marriage, we have become the corporate, spiritual bride of His Son (Ephesians 1:4; 5: 25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2). Jesus wants us with Him in His presence not for a limited period of time but for eternity!!! If you are ever tempted to think that no one loves you, think again. On earth, believers only saw a silhouette of His glory. But in heaven Jesus’ glory is unveiled in all its magnificence. His power is unbridled. This is what He wants us to experience with Him. On that eve, over two thousand years ago, Jesus was obviously aware of the rigors, harshness and sordidness of the night of our earthly existence, and He desired to give us an eternal rest. Although He would be leaving the believers, His desire was to, ultimately, have us all gathered unto Him, an eternal gift from His Father. This is one time the gift will take on the appearance of the its recipient. “But we know that when He appears [to take us home], we shall be as He is…” (1 John 3:2). Of course, this does not mean that we shall take on His deity. Rather we will also have a glorified, eternal body, just as He has. No wonder the apostle Paul exultantly exclaimed that ““Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him, (1 Corinthians 2:9). In the book of Revelation, the apostle John was blessed with a vision of heaven and shared it with us.  He said he did not see a temple there because the Almighty God and the Lamb are the temple.  Nor did he see the sun or moon shedding light on the city of God because Jesus is its Lamp.  The radiance from the Person of Christ illuminates the entire city for eternity because. There is not night there. Jesus is heaven’s infinite Light.  They need no batteries or generators or power plants as sources of light there. Jesus shines forever. John saw Him in full disclosure. He was fully displayed as He has always been from eternity past, not as a flickering light but gloriously bright and incandescent, and we shall experience Him in this state forever.  I don’t know about you, but this strengthens my resolve to be there with Him, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Lord.  My spot is waiting for me because of Jesus who ever lives to make intercession for us, and I don’t intend to miss it.

Parting the Red Seas of Life

When Israel left Egypt, they walked away from a past of servitude, brutality, dehumanization, and pain into a future of redefined moral values, total freedom, and adventure with God.  They were carved out to become a community that would serve as the historical framework within which the Messiah, the Savior of the world, would be revealed. They became recipients and custodians of strict dietary, social, spiritual, health, and legislative laws for that same reason. Their entire culture was drastically changed. But at the Red Sea their past began to close in on them with all its horrendous and cruel bondage. Their unfolding freedom and promising future was suddenly threatened by the churning and menacing waters of the sea. The Red Sea was literally an open grave. Precipitous mountains and rocks stood on either side, and a massive army wielding formidable military weapons was closing in on them from behind. There seemed to be no way of escape for them. It seemed as if their short-lived freedom would soon be snuffed out. The way things appeared, it was more reasonable to surrender and be led back into slavery than to pursue Moses’ ill-conceived and abortive attempt to free them. Unarmed former slaves were no match for a renowned world Empire’s seasoned army. But God had other plans. He never leads us backwards. His plans are to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Call onto Me, He says to us, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know, (Jeremiah 33:3). Moses called out to God on behalf of the people of Israel and God responded by commanded nature to intervene with a night wind that parted the water and paved a path for the people to cross safely to the other side on dry ground, leaving clouds of dust behind them in the middle of the sea!! Water was standing on either side like a solid wall. Sadly, Egypt mistakenly thought God’s plans for Israel were theirs, too.  Their cup of iniquity, arrogance, and irreverence was so full they assumed a sense of entitlement even toward God to their utter destruction. They believed they were entitled to be masters over other people forever. It was a fatal mistake that devastated the entire Empire.

Our painful experiences can be daunting.  Each one of us has our share of Egypt experiences, as it were. They are often characterized by painful and harrowing suffering. Sometimes, severe trials akin to a fiery furnace beset us and plunge us into seasons of darkness devoid of even the promising glimmer of distant stars against the night of anguish. Our faith in God wavers; becoming almost fickle and hollow under the burden of intense pain. Chronic unhappiness and sadness endlessly stalk us, threatening to envelop us in a seemingly inescapable blanket of gloom. I do not know what type of sorrow the reader is facing right now, but I take heart in knowing that God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, is shining in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, our Lord (2 Cor. 4: 6). God has given us Jesus Christ as our Eternal Light to guide us and carry us through our earthly pilgrimage. He is our victory. In God, the past has no power over us. He makes all things new by making a new creation of us, in His Son. Jesus has parted our Red Sea and the Enemy has lost his grip on us.

Ephesians 3:18

To comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, (Ephesians 3:18)

No one has had as profound an impact on the history of this planet as Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and rightfully so because He created it and sustains it: All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3, JKV). Kingdoms and Empires have come and gone. Rulers and leaders of every stripe have arisen for a season and exited the stage of life only to vanish into the dusty trails of history. Some are remembered with honor while others have gone down into infamy. But Jesus has continued to be an imposing Presence towering over all historical events. Muggeridge succinctly observed this when he said, “Behind the debris of… self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ.”1

What is most astonishing and awe-inspiring about Jesus is His unquenchable love for the inhabitants of this planet; His eternal, unconditional and undying connectedness to you and I. There is no human language rich enough to adequately describe this love. But Scripture exhorts us to “comprehend…what is the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which passeth understanding…” (Eph. 3:18). How is it possible for us to comprehend love that is incomprehensible? Only with the help of the Holy Spirit can we catch a glimpse of this enigmatic attribute of our Lord, which the apostle Paul attempted to describe.

What is the width of Christ’s love? Blinded and exiled to the island of Patmos, the apostle John had a series of spectacular visions of heaven.  He saw before the throne of God and the Lamb a multitude which no one could number. They came from “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,” (Revelation 7: 9). An inter-ethnic, multi-racial, inter-generational community of the redeemed stood before the throne of God- thousands and thousands of glorified saints. Such is the inclusiveness and width of Jesus’ love. No one is banned from it who desires it.  Everyone who comes to the Lord Jesus has the privilege of basking in this eternal agape love. That is how massive and intense and vast it is. In His love, there are no social strata, no castes, no walls of separation, nothing that insinuates a disadvantage. Just one blood-bought community standing before Him on level ground. Demoniacs, prostitutes, tax collectors, turncoats, and abusers of human rights have an equal opportunity to enter into this love.

The length of Jesus’ love is its timelessness. It extends from eternity past to eternity future.  This love existed before the foundation of our universe, which means it transcends time and space. It is as old as our Lord. It was the motivation for the Plan of Redemption. Jesus’ love never wears out. From generation to generation it crowns our existence. It covers our earthly pilgrimage, keeps us in Him in death, and will rouse us into eternal existence at the resurrection to become part of the eternal family of God and His Christ, forever. Never are we ever separated from it. Nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Rom 8: 38, 39). Nothing can intercept or interrupt Jesus’ man-ward love, ever.

The depth of Jesus’ love is exemplified in His incarnation and all His experiences in His flesh.  Of course, that was not the inception of His love for us. Rather that was when it began to be revealed and made manifest to us. Jesus condensed Himself so much that He injected Himself into the current of time and space not as an aristocrat but as a carpenter from a poor family. The apostle’s Christological hymn aptly expresses this: “Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant… He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross,” (Philippians 2: 6-8). The Incarnation is the most astonishing and mysterious historical event ever! In it, God displayed His shocking humility. In this Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace, God became one with you and I. He grew human limbs and organs and sinew. He had a skeletal system and a circulatory system, too. He became fully human subject to death although He remained fully divine. His life of self-expenditure on our behalf is incomprehensible. It is beyond the grasp of the human mind. The Creator of billions of galaxies and complex life forms became a creature Himself.  He condensed Himself into an embryo in His creature’s womb and trusted her with all aspects of His childhood. Since the Incarnation, humanity has been elevated and dignified in a most amazing manner. Jesus allowed Satan to tempt Him, His brothers to doubt His divinity, Church leaders to deride Him and to finally hand Him over to a pagan Empire to crucify Him. On the Cross, He became the sinner’s substitute. Every type of human sin was laid on Him and, because of that, He experienced something He had never experienced before: He was separated from His Father’s face. All alone, He walked through palpable spiritual darkness to destroy the works of the Enemy. His was the greatest battle ever fought by one Man on a hill called Calvary-for your sake and mine.  All the powers of darkness were unleashed against Him. The only weapon He had was His love for you and I, and that was enough. This is how deep His love is, and much, much more. But the story does not end here.

The apostle urges us to contemplate and to know the height of Jesus love, too! Jesus, the Eternal Prophet, Priest, and King burst out of the tomb to die no more. He de-fanged death and the grave could not hold Him back. “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death,” (Revelation 1:18).  When He ascended back to His Father, He did not go alone, but took you and I in Him to sit on the right hand of the throne of majesty, above all principalities and powers. We have passed from death unto life because of Jesus (John 5:24). We have inherited what we do not deserve; what we never worked for – eternal life through Him and with Him.  He has given us a weapon with which to overcome the Enemy, His blood (Rev. 12:11).  We are now a kingdom of priests in Him who ever lives to make intercession for us. Furthermore, when He appears again, we shall be as He is (1 John 3:2). He will transform our mortal bodies to be like His glorious body (Philippians 3:2). His love has done all this for you and for I. Is it any wonder it passeth understanding?

Sources

1 Muggeridge, M. In Ravi Zacharia’s Book: Deliver Us From Evil: Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture, Dallas, USA: Word Publishing, 1996, pp. 187-8.

I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)-Two Sides of the Same Self-Portraiture

Without Jesus nothing was made that was made (John 1:3) and without Him, there is no resurrection. He is both the life and the resurrection. Life inheres in Him.

The intriguing story of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, illustrates and authenticates the claims above. The Bible tells us that Jesus loved the family of Lazarus, Martha and Mary (John 11:5). They were hospitable and kind to Him and received Him in their home from time to time. Therefore, when Lazarus became terminally ill, his sisters sent word to Jesus to inform him about Lazarus’ illness. Ordinarily, when a good friend falls ill with a life-threatening disease, we make it a point to rush to their side to give them the support and comfort they need. But in this case, the Bible says that when Jesus heard about Lazarus’ grave illness, He said “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it,” (John 11:4), and He remained where He was for an additional two days during which Lazarus died. Strangely enough, upon hearing about the death of Lazarus’ death, Jesus told His disciples that Lazarus was merely sleeping. He seemed completely unfazed by Lazarus’ death. He did not even rush to attend the funeral. This must have really puzzled the sisters who must have expected Him to come and heal Lazarus the way He had healed other people, and even raised some from the dead.

Jesus finally went to be with the sisters. When He came near their town, Martha hurried to meet Him while Mary remained at home with the mourners. Martha told Jesus what she thought He would have done if He had been present: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died, (John 11:21).  When Mary finally came to the burial site, she reiterated her sister’s sentiments. They both had faith in Jesus, but they did not understand why He had not risen to their expectations during a difficult time in their lives. May be right now the reader feels that Jesus has abandoned them while they are going through a difficult time. When my daughter died, I knew that Jesus could have healed her if He had willed. But He did not. I still believe in Him even when I do not understand what is going on in the spiritual world; behind the physical veil of this life. When Rick Warren was asked this question during a CNN interview after the death of his son by suicide: “Looking back, is it possible to begin to see purpose in your pain?” He said he had struggled with the “why” questions: “Why didn’t you [God] answer the prayer I prayed every day for 27 years?” The prayer I prayed more than any other prayer went unanswered. But… What you need in tragedy is not an explanation, you need the presence of God.” Truer words have never been spoken. God’s presence in our lives is what has kept my family going, too.

During His conversation with Martha, Jesus made a staggering claim that has forever changed mankind’s view of death: “I am the resurrection and life…,” He said. Martha believed in an eschatological resurrection as she confessed to Jesus. She understood the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. But Jesus was trying to help her understand that the resurrection was not an event, as such. It was the Person standing right beside her. He is the life. Where there is resurrection, death is impotent and where life thrives, death is absent. In a nutshell, in Jesus, there is no death. In Him the dead do not pass into oblivion. They live on although they are separated from the physical life. Lazarus was not late Lazarus to Jesus. He was just Lazarus. Indeed Lazarus’ body had ceased to function and his flesh was decomposing, going back into the dust. But although its chemical properties had begun to disintegrate and the blood was no longer circulating, Lazarus was still within earshot of the voice of Jesus. There is never a point at which we are beyond Jesus’ voice or reach. Before the multitude in Bethany stood One who substituted the present for a future event of hope. What had ceased to exist was merely the tent housing Lazarus (2 Cor. 5:1). But to Jesus, Lazarus was more than his physical body. Human beings are spiritual beings and that is what connects us to our Creator God since the flesh has no interest in divine things (Gal 8:8).

Barclay aptly observed, in “Jesus Christ, we know that we are journeying not to the sunset, but to the sunrise” of eternal life with Him. Jesus’ voice pierced the heart of darkness that had engulfed Lazarus in his death, and shone the light of His life. Jesus completely altered the character of death so that although it remains, it is a powerless leviathan to the believer because of the continuity of life inherent in the Person of Christ, our Lord.

Human understanding is always restricted and crippled by our experiences on this earth. The present so pre-occupies us that it has obscured the future, particularly in spiritual issues.  Judging from what obtained in the present, Martha implicitly told the Lord that He was too late to do anything for Lazarus. Her view was confined to time and space: “If you had been here…” She thought that Jesus had to be physically present in their geographic location to heal her brother. Capitulation to the prison of time and space limits our focus to what we believe to be present reality, and makes us lose sight of that which is possible. Consequently, our straggling modicum of faith becomes frayed by our fixation to the present; to that which is temporary at the expense of the eternal.

Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead reveals to us that He has permanently defeated death.  This means that we have hope even when our loved ones succumb to physical death…

Christianity is Violent???

One of the objections to the Christian faith is that it has been historically associated with violence; that it has specialized in intimidating its opponents, and killed some of them for their resistance. If someone took my clothes and wore them, and (God forbid!) committed a crime while adorned in them, would that make me guilty of the crime committed? Obviously not, because a thorough and unbiased investigation will reveal that I am innocent, and that the actual criminal impersonated me. When Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate for judgment having been accused of inciting insurrection and political destabilization. Pilate examined Him and found Him innocent of the crime He was accused of. Pilate detected no trace of violent behavior in Him whatsoever.
Anyone who advocates and applies violence to propagate the “Christian faith” is not a true Christian. He or she is a pseudo Christian. In the Messianic prophecy, the Prophet Isaiah says this about Jesus” “Behold My Servant…He will not quarrel nor cry out…A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He will not quench…” How then can His kingdom be associated with violence? When the Apostle Peter wielded his weapon and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, Jesus demonstrated publicly that He did not condone violent behavior by healing the man’s ear and restoring it while at the same time chiding His disciple for his action.
His true followers emulate Him and any deviation from His principles is not Christian at all. We contend for the faith not through violence, but by consecrating the Lord in our hearts and being ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us a reason for the hope that is within us with meekness and reverence, not by brandishing the sword or gun. To say Christianity is violent is to misunderstand what Christianity truly is.

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Feeling Your Pain-The Perfect Prescription for Fulfillment

One component of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection is differential survival and reproduction. This means that individuals who are endowed with traits that are more suited for struggling for local resources have a greater opportunity of contributing more offspring or multiplicity than their counterparts who lack this endowment. In other words, it is survival of the fittest in the Darwinian world. The stronger live on and the weaker and vulnerable die off. The Kingdom of God is diametrically opposed to such viewpoints. In fact the opposite is true. The laws of this Kingdom insist on servant-leadership. This is the reason why a plethora of charity organizations dot the global landscape even in the remotest areas. Here men and women inspired by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ have established organizations aimed at alleviating incredible suffering among the less advantaged. They work tirelessly, dispensing the grace of God. For instance, Diane Cicely Saunders started the hospice movement in England to take care of the terminally ill. Now hospices have become a global provider of critical palliative or end-of-life-services. Mother Teresa sacrificed her life caring for the destitute and impoverished, particularly in Calcutta in the homes she established. Mother Teresa’s sisters or now more than 4,000; working about 600 foundations in 123 countries. Bob Pierce created the World Vision to provide care for children in crisis. His mantra was “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” World Vision is now a global movement committed to working with the poor and oppressed, to promote human transformation and to seek justice while at the same time bearing witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God. Similarly, Bill Magee established Operation Smile to correct cleft palates and other facial deformities in developing nations where the healthcare technology to do so is not available. William Booth established what we now know as the Salvation Army to reach out to converts then perceived to have had “questionable backgrounds,” and now this organization serves people in over 100 countries around the world. The list goes on and on….Indeed, in God’s Kingdom, the strong become servants of the weak as the Lord Jesus Christ did. That is how greatness is achieved. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life a ransom for others,” (Matthew 20:28). http://youtu.be/MWkIVDKfh9w