THE GLORIOUS BRIDE

Rev. 21:9-11 – Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.

The end of the Bible seen in the closing chapters of Revelation helps us begin to glimpse God’s ultimate and glorious plan. The scriptures teach us that all of God’s creation primarily exists to display the glory of God. From the minute intricacies of the microscopic world to the grandeur and majesty seen in His universe, everything pulsates with the glory of God. The Lord saves His greatest display of His glory for the closing chapters of His word. The ultimate display of God’s glory is His glory displayed on the Bride of Christ. She is seen coming down from heaven onto the new earth radiating with the glory of God. Think about it, the bride consists of a multitude of fallen humans. Each member of this bride purchased by His blood and transformed by His Spirit. We have been joined together as one body and presented before all creation as the ultimate display of God’s glory displayed in His act of grace towards us. Unthinkable! Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on this incredible display of glory.

“That the glory of God is the highest and last end of the work of redemption, is confirmed by the song of the angels at Christ’s birth. Luke 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will toward men.” It must be supposed that they knew what was God’s last end in sending Christ into the world; and that in their rejoicing on the occasion, their minds would most rejoice in that which was most valuable and glorious in it, which must consist in its relation to that which was its chief and ultimate end. And we may further suppose that the thing which chiefly engaged their minds was most glorious and joyful in the affair; and would be first in that song which was to express the sentiments of their minds, and exultation of their hearts.”

So the Lord has taken liars, adulterers, thieves, and bigots and transformed them by His love. We exist to display God’s ultimate work, the redemption of a fallen race through His love.

HOLD HIM BY HIS FEET

Matthew 28:8-9 And did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

There is something amazingly different about Jesus. There is no angel in heaven nor any creature or human on earth that has the attraction that He has. Now not everyone is attracted to our Savior, only those who belong to Him. To those who are perishing Jesus is actually repelling, but to those who are being saved, He is the most prized possession of our lives. This first Resurrection Sunday these precious women were amazed beyond words. Those three days of darkness and depression had been swallowed up in an instant. “He’s alive, just like the angels said.” The appearance or words of angels had not driven the darkness from their souls, but one word from His lips and they were at His feet worshipping Him, overwhelmed with His love. This is how Spurgeon describes this scene.

“Jesus permits these godly women to hold him by the feet. It was an act of humility, worshipping and holding; and holding not his hands, but his feet. They must have seen the nail-prints before Thomas did, as they held him by the feet, and worshipped him. I do not find that these women ran to the angels, they rather shrank back from them; but they came to Jesus, for we are told that they came, and held him by the feet. I think that there must have been a new attraction about Christ after he had risen from the dead, something more sweet about the tones of his voice, something more charming about the countenance that had been so maimed at Gethsemane, and Gabbatha, and Golgotha.”

But what about us today? Do we have to go on someone else’s words? Do I have to live on the testimony of someone who lived two thousand years ago? Hardly! Jesus is in heaven but the Holy Spirit, the very One who raised Jesus from the dead is here with us. He comes to us just like Jesus came to the women on that road to Jerusalem that Sunday morning so long ago. He speaks to us and surrounds us with His love. Before you know it, you too will be at His feet consumed with the testimony of Jesus.

“The Heavenly Gardener”

MERRY MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” John 20:15

Such an encounter Mary had and she supposed him to be the gardener! Well in some ways he is a gardener of sorts tending to the gardens in our soul. It happens to all of us! The sudden surprise when Christ walks into the room. Throughout our ministry I have had the pleasure of hearing of such encounters. It’s what makes ministry the best occupation in the universe. When the heavenly gardener shows up everything changes!

Mary from Magdala had every reason to miss the Christ standing before her. The last 24 hours were full of blood, beatings, and then the tomb. She gathered the spices to anoint the dead and hurried to the tomb bringing her own tomb of troubles.

Little did she realize she was going back in time when she went forward to the tomb. There was another garden long, long ago where Adam and Eve did the unpardonable. Little did she know she was the new Eve restoring the kingdom and the curse that fell on man. The heavenly gardener is always about his fields tending to his harvest. He calls her out by name just as he did that other day in the garden. Mary woke up out of her dream of death and met Christ the resurrected one. He commissioned her to finish the story of redemption by going to all the world and telling others the good news.

Ambrose says this about the garden; “Jesus went forth with his disciples over the brook Kidron, where there was a garden (John 18:1)” many mysteries are included in this word, and I believe it is not without reason that our Savior goes into a garden… Because a garden was the place wherein we fell, and therefore Christ made choice of a garden to begin the greatest work of our redemption: in the first garden was the beginning of all evils; and in this garden was the beginning of our restitution from all evils; in the first garden, the first Adam was overthrown by Satan, and in this garden the second Adam overcame, and Satan himself was by him overcome; in the first garden sin was contracted; and we were indebted by our sins to God, and in this garden sin was paid for by that great and precious price of the blood of God: in the first garden man surfeited by eating the forbidden fruit, and in this garden Christ sweat it out wonderfully, even by a bloody sweat; in the first garden, death first made its entrance into the world; and in this garden life enters to restore us from death to life again; in the first garden Adam’s liberty to sin brought himself and all of us into bondage; and in this garden, Christ being bound and fettered, we are thereby freed and restored to liberty.”

No matter what you are facing my friend, the gardener has a way of bringing your winter to a close. He is tending to his business and calls you out by name. He has lifted the curse, and called you out by name! He is all around, he is in you working his eternal plan!

RESURRECTION CHANGES EVERYTHING

Matt. 28:8-10 – So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

The followers of Jesus were really caught by surprise by His death. Even though He had spoken to them about His imminent crucifixion it appears that none of them grasped it, and frankly, they wanted things to stay as they had been. Who wouldn’t? Their lives had been dramatically altered by the Lord and they could never go back to life without Him. When Jesus died His followers were in a state of sorrow and stupor, that is until they saw Him for themselves.

Mary is the obvious example. She was weeping outside His tomb after she had seen that it was empty. Jesus words that He would rise gain seemed like a fairy tale until she heard His voice. All He said at first was her name, “Mary”, He called to her. In a moment all of those fears that were hounding her disappeared. Jesus was alive and Mary was alive with hope. Jesus had truly risen from the grave.

Then there was Simon Peter. He could not believe his actions when push came to shove that fateful night. How could he have denied that he ever knew Jesus? To Peter, the dream was over. Even after seeing the empty tomb Peter was still overwhelmed with darkness. Even if Jesus was alive how could he even look Jesus in the face. According to Paul, Jesus met with Peter, probably alone, that glorious day. We aren’t privy to that conversation but Jesus didn’t need to tell Peter anything. One look into His eyes and Peter was good. Jesus was alive and Peter was forgiven, that’s all that really mattered.

Of course there was doubting Thomas. He seemed to be more angry than depressed. “I won’t believe unless I put my finger in the nail prints and my hand in His side that was pierced.” That also changed in an instant of time. Jesus appeared to Thomas and repeated Thomas’s words. “Put your finger here in my hands. Put your hand in the wound in my side”. Thomas was undone. All he could say was “My Lord and my God”.

So maybe you are a little down and listless this Easter morning. I have some good news for you. I have heard that Jesus is alive and He is still visiting people. Maybe you have an unexpected appointment today. Hope to see you in church.

SEVEN WORDS FROM THE CROSS

Lk. 24:46,47 – and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

As most Christians do, I took another look at the cross this Easter season. If you take a few minutes to look at Calvary, you can easily be swept away in the love of God. I began to reflect on the seven things Jesus said while dying on the cross, these words are deeper than any ocean. Here are those statements with a few short comments.

1. Lk.23:34 – “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

This type of forgiveness is unthinkable to me. The men killing Christ are committing the vilest sin imaginable, killing God’s Son. What was the Lord’s response ? Forgiveness and love.

2. Lk.23:43 – “This day you will be with me in Paradise.”

These were the words spoken to the man we call the thief on the cross. This man was likely suffering a just and well deserved execution. He obviously had heard of Jesus of Nazareth and when he realized he was dying next to the Lord, he began to cry out for mercy. Rather than eternal punishment he slipped into paradise with Christ.

3. Jn.19:26,27 – “Woman, behold your son.”

This tender statement shows us who Jesus considered family, those who believed on Him.

4. MK.15:34 – “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Again, the unthinkable happens. Jesus took God’s judgement of sin, your sins and my sins, on Himself. This is why Jesus felt forsaken at the cross. He bore my punishment that I could enjoy fellowship with the Father and the Son.

5 Jn.19:28 – “I thirst.”

Of course Christ was human and experienced excruciating thirst at Calvary. But this speaks of more than physical thirst, Jesus is thirsting for God to be glorified by the restoration of fallen man. This was why He came and why He died.

Passion notes -The Fountain of Living Water now thirsts for the souls of men and women to come to him. He thirsts for your friendship.

6. Jn.19:30 – “It is finished.”

The cry of victory as His suffering was coming to an end; redemption had been accomplished, we were delivered totally from the shackles of sin.

7. Lk.23:46 – “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Finally, Jesus yields His Spirit up to the Father. As He died in weakness as a human, He is totally dependent on the Father to raise Him from the dead. Three days later it all began, Christ was raised from the grave and the gospel began to be proclaimed in all the world.

MOCKED AND RIDICULED

Matthew 27:27-30. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.

 

 

No one likes to be mocked. Many times the accusations come a little too close to home. You know what I mean, being laughed at for being fat after you have put on a few pounds. Or maybe someone laughing at your outfit (you thought it looked pretty good). I can remember the smirks and whisperings in the back rooms with famous preachers I used to hang around with. Our church in New Orleans was never big enough or rich enough and after all we were one of ‘those’ kind of churches. You know the kind, not only were the poor there, there was way too much of those Pentecostal carryings on. That brings us to today’s passage, Jesus was very familiar with being mocked, as a matter of fact He was beaten, spit on, and laughed at because of His ministry. The last straw was raising Lazarus from the dead. The audacity of actually calling out to a dead body that had been in the tomb for four days. The catch was this, the body listened and Lazarus came out of the grave. Here is how Spurgeon describes this cruel behavior.

 

“Ridicule is very painful to bear at any time, and soldiers have been masters of that cruel art when they have been encouraged in it by their leaders. Remember, brethren and sisters, who it was that bore all this shameful treatment from these brutal men, — your Lord and the angels’ Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, who had designed, for a while, to veil his Deity in human flesh. And there he stood, to be “set at nought,” — to be made nothing of, — by those rough Roman legionaries, the creatures of his own hand, whom he could have destroyed in a moment by a word or a wish. What matchless condescension our gracious redeemer displayed even in his own deepest degradation and agony!”

Christ bore my ridicule, the Creator was mocked and beaten unjustly. He humbled Himself and forgave. It was this incredible love that began to win His enemies. Lord, strengthen us, strengthen me, to walk in your steps.

KING OF THE JEWS

Jn. 19:19,20 – Pilate had them post a sign over the cross, which was written in three languages—Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Many of the people of Jerusalem read the sign, for he was crucified near the city. The sign stated: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

There were so many supposed coincidences that day. Jesus just happened to be killed on Mount Moriah, the same mountain that Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. Jesus was also executed at the time of the Passover sacrifice fulfilling the prophecies as the Lamb of God. He was also killed the same year that Daniel prophesied that Messiah, the Prince would be cut off.

At Calvary we have the most unthinkable scene, God the Son, the Creator of all things, being offered as a sacrifice for the sins of all men. The mystery of the incarnation was coming to its peak, God in the form of a man was being offered as a sacrifice for our sins to God our Father. In the note on this verse in the Passion Translation another divine coincidence is explained. Check this out.

“Aramaic was the language of the common people in Israel. Hebrew ceased to be their spoken language after 450 BC, after the Jews returned from Babylon. Aramaic remained the language of Israel for nearly one thousand years. Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire. The inscription was also in Greek, for the Alexandrian Jews who had come to observe the Passover in Jerusalem would be unable to read Aramaic. The words were, “Jesus, the Nazarene, King of the Jews.” The first letters of each of the four words written on the sign in Aramaic (Hebrew) were: Y-H-W-H (Y’shua Hanozri Wumelech a Yehudim). To write these letters, YHWH (also known as the tetragrammaton), was the Hebrew form of writing the sacred name “Yahweh.” No wonder the chief priests were so offended by this sign and insisted that Pilate change it. This was a sign given to Israel, for over Jesus’ head on the cross was written, Y-H-W-H! God, the Savior, bled to death for you.”

So, as we remember the Lord’s death again this Good Friday we are drawn to the power of Christ’s death. Yahweh Himself, in a human body, was being offered for the sins of the world. The part that is most devastating, YHWH was dying for me.

WORSHIPPING OUR WAY TO CALVARY

Matthew 26:30. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

This verse always strikes me. Just think about it, Jesus led His disciples in worship as He intentionally marched toward Calvary. He was strengthening Himself in the Lord and also showing His disciples how to face diversity. How many times have you struggled with trials and fallen pray to the dark thoughts that seem to hem us in? There is a better way. There is a way to avoid depression and actually taste the sweetness of heaven’s joy in the midst of your own personal Gethsemane. Check out part of what Jesus sang that night.

 

Psalm 113

1 Praise the LORD!

Praise, O servants of the LORD,

Praise the name of the LORD!

2 Blessed be the name of the LORD

From this time forth and forevermore!

3 From the rising of the sun to its going down

The LORD’S name is to be praised.

4 The LORD is high above all nations,

His glory above the heavens.

5 Who is like the LORD our God,

Who dwells on high,

6 Who humbles Himself to behold

The things that are in the heavens and in the earth?

He was focusing on the glory of God displayed in creation and also acknowledging the amazing love of God’s care for His creation. What a picture, the Creator Himself leading His creatures in a song. Here are comments from Charles Spurgeon on today’s verse.

“To his last great battle the Champion goes singing, attended by feeble followers, who could not protect him; but who could sing with him. I think he must have led the tune; his disciples were too sorrowful to sing until his clear voice started the Hallelujah Psalms; but they joined him in the holy exercise, for “they” as well as their Lord sang the hymn. When you are about to face a trial, offer a prayer; but, if you can, also sing a hymn. It will show great faith if, before you enter into the burning fiery furnace, you can sing psalms unto the Lord who redeemeth his people. Now let us read Paul’s version of this same matter.”

So what kind of trial are you facing this year as we prepare to celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord? Whatever it may be; whether sickness, death, family crisis, or financial chaos, turn your eyes toward heaven. Join with Jesus and march boldly toward the cross in worship.

KING OF OUR HEART

John 12:12-15 ¶ The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!

What a strange way to conquer a city. Make no mistake, this King of Peace came in to Jerusalem to conquer. His conquest was not like any other invading king. There was no swords, horses, or armies and no arrows piercing the sky. His conquest was different from all the others. He came to conquer our hearts. His entrance on a young donkey, hardly a great military maneuver. Jesus had His sights set on our hearts all along. He would cleanse the temple, heal the sick, and prophesy about the coming of the Holy Spirit. No threats, no blows, just the love of God pouring out of Him into all who were thirsty. Here is how Barclay describes this scene.

“It was not the kingship of the throne which he claimed; it was the kingship of the heart. He came humbly and riding upon an ass. We must be careful to see the real meaning of that. In western lands the ass is a despised beast; but in the east the ass could be a noble animal. Often a king came riding upon an ass, but when he did, it was the sign that he came in peace. The horse was the mount of war; the ass was the mount of peace. So when Jesus claimed to be king, he claimed to be the king of peace. He showed that he came, not to destroy, but to love; not to condemn, but to help; not in the might of arms, but in the strength of love.”

So…..has He captured your heart yet? Have you been captured by His agonizing prayer as He prayed for us in the garden? Maybe your heart was touched when He was whipped beyond recognition carrying our sickness and pains. Or was it the crucifixion that got you, He was wounded for our transgressions and the chastisement of our peace was upon Him. His entrance to Jerusalem was all about His choice to suffer and die for us. He is the conquering King, He has captured the hearts of His sons and daughters.

The Heavenly Architect

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

“The very stone the masons rejected as flawed
has turned out to be the most important capstone of the arch,
holding up the very house of God.
The Lord himself is the one who has done this,
and it’s so amazing, so marvelous to see!” Ps. 118:22

It’s amazing how blind one can be to God all around us. We are so bent on why He didn’t come through for us in one situation when right in front of us the heavenly architect is at work, for He never stops. Years ago right after the garbage pick up came to my house I noticed a small folded up piece of paper by the trash can. When I went to pick it up I noticed that it was neatly folded up into squares. Hesitating at the trash can, I opened up all the squares and out came a large diamond inside. Just think, I almost threw the rubbish away not knowing the precious stone was inside! What a special day that was for me!

It was the same way during Jesus’ time. While the Jewish people were standing around staring at the beautiful edifice of the temple and all of it’s handiwork, the real temple was standing right next to them. Jesus even remarked to the crowd that he would rise again in three days. Christ was called the “headstone of the corner” and they/we discarded him as rubbish. Christ was cast outside as useless, unnoticed and aggressively treated as an enemy. Man loves to build his towers of Babel constructing man’s ideas, thoughts, and percepts, but all of that will topple. All along Christ was the stone of God’s own quarrying and preparing. From the extraordinary birth, to His signs, wonders and miracles, God set him apart. He fulfilled all the prophecies yet we did esteem him not. “We chased him out of this world and flung away God’s precious jewel because this world’s counterfeit outshone in our eyes”. Spurgeon

Today Christ comes to be the chief cook and bottle washer to our spiritual building. We find Jesus digging among the rubbish of our lives and then call us his precious stones in his quarry. He bonds us to himself and will bring out the precious diamonds in us all. The head of the corner joins God and man together in time and eternity! For this is the Lord’s doing and is marvelous in our eyes. To them that believe he is forever precious! He becomes the beauty and the ornament of the true building. He is the sure foundation that has been laid in our lives while men continue today to build corrupt buildings out of evil designs. Do you believe the heavenly architect knows what he is doing in your own life? Don’t let the tower of Babel become the voice of your future for it will come to naught! Christ himself is building us up together in him; allow the master carpenter to work within!