TRANSFIGURED

Lk.9:34,35 – While Peter was still speaking, a radiant cloud of glory formed above them and overshadowed them. As the glory cloud enveloped them, they were struck with fear. Then the voice of God thundered from within the cloud, “This is my Son, my Beloved One. Listen carefully to all he has to say.”

The Transfiguration was a foretaste of the coming kingdom. Think about it, the Son of God has existed and enjoyed intimacy with the Father from eternity. The Son of God became the Son of Man when He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin, Mary. He was named Jesus and raised as the son of Joseph the carpenter. He began His ministry at thirty and was preparing for His death. After His death and resurrection Christ would take His place at the Father’s right hand, as a glorified man. The transfiguration is a foretaste of the coming kingdom. The disciples glimpsed the coming glory of Jesus on the mountain that day. Soon, Jesus would enter that glory. Soon we would enter that glorious state as well. Here are some thoughts from Martin Luther on today’s passage.

“Three persons and one God—they appeared as distinguishable. The figures are different from one another: there is the Father who speaks, the Son about whom the Father speaks and the Holy Spirit . . . in the shining cloud. This we confess in the Apostle’s Creed. Since the gospel has been revealed, we should believe this…..Among us simple people we do not speculate but are taught. True faith is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the one God. The Son became human, and he died and gave us the Holy Spirit who gives us the sacrament, consolation, strengthens us and leads us into eternal life. Otherwise no one’s faith—not any single person’s`—has endured for long.”

Peter, James, and John saw the edge of Who Jesus is and how He would appear in eternity. Years later I’m sure John remembered this day when he was caught up into heaven by the Spirit. His first vision was seeing Jesus in that place of glory. He saw Him as a lion and as a sacrificed lamb. He saw Him in His glory on the throne and saw all creation bowing in worship before the Lord. This is what we are praying for when we pray ‘Let your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven’. Lord, let Your kingdom come, let the whole earth be filled with Your glory.

MY BELOVED

Matt.17:5 – While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”

Christ is the very image of the Father. He is absolutely perfect and is the display of the Father in every way. The Father loves the Son, the Father has always loved the Son, the transfiguration just gives us a glimpse into this heavenly intimacy. The disciples had not tasted this life at this point in the gospel narrative. This was just a glimpse into the fellowship they would soon enjoy. They were privileged to observe this intimacy. After Pentecost they too would begin to taste it. Paul said that we are seated together in heavenly places in Christ. The transfiguration gives us a taste of what we now have. Here is a quote from Matthew Henry on this passage.

“The great gospel mystery revealed; This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. This was the very same that was spoken from heaven at his baptism; and it was the best news that ever came from heaven to earth since man sinned. It is to the same purport with that great doctrine, That God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. Moses and Elias were great men, and favorites of Heaven, yet they were but servants, and servants that God was not always well pleased in; for Moses spoke unadvisedly, and Elias was a man subject to passions; but Christ is a Son, and in him God was always well pleased. Moses and Elias were sometimes instruments of reconciliation between God and Israel; Moses was a great intercessor, and Elias a great reformer; but in Christ God is reconciling the world; his intercession is more prevalent than that of Moses, and his reformation more effectual than that of Elias.”

Today, the Son of God has entered into this glory that was glimpsed that day on the Mount of Transfiguration. He reigns on the throne with His Father, ruling the universe as the Son of God. The good news is that He sits in heaven representing me and interceding for me before the Father. Moses and Elijah were voices pointing us to Him. Today, God is speaking to us through His very own Son. He is calling us into this mystery of heavenly fellowship so that we too can be transformed and radiate His glory.

I HAVE TO SING

Ps.92:3,4 – Melodies of praise will fill the air as every musical instrument,

joined with every heart, overflows with worship.

No wonder I’m so glad; I can’t keep it in!

Lord, I’m shouting with glee over all you’ve done,

for all you’ve done for me!

Music and singing are our response to the Lord. To those who live with eyes wide open singing is not optional. When we see His glory in the sunrise, we hear His joy in the songbirds, we feel His power in the crashing thunder, our response is to glorify Him with a song. When we see the rays of revelation in the scripture; redemption, adoption, election, sovereignty, our hearts break out in His songs of joy and celebration. When we think of our testimony; how He knew us from our mother’s womb, He kept us safe in our years of rebellion, He provided for us from our first breath, and He revealed Himself to us on the day of our new birth, we can’t hold in the sounds of joy that erupt from deep inside of us. Here is how Spurgeon describes this phenomenon.

“It was natural for the psalmist to sing, because he was glad, and to sing unto the Lord, because his gladness was caused by a contemplation of the divine work. If we consider either creation or providence, we shall find overflowing reasons for joy; but when we come to review the work of redemption, gladness knows no bounds, but feels that she must praise the Lord with all her might. There are times when in the contemplation of redeeming love we feel that if we did not sing we must die; silence would be as horrible to us as if we were gagged by inquisitors, or stifled by murderers. I will triumph in the works of thy hands. I cannot help it, I must and I will rejoice in the Lord, even as one who has won the victory and has divided great spoil….When God reveals his work to a man, and performs a work in his soul, he makes his heart glad most effectually, and then the natural consequence is continual praise.”

So take a look around as you begin the new day. Listen for His songs outside as creation displays His glory, search for His grace as you open up the scriptures, bask in His love as you sing your songs of joy to the Lord. Yep, I think its going to be a great new day.

BLIND BEGGARS

Mk.10:47 – When he heard that Jesus from Nazareth was passing by, he began to shout “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me now in my affliction. Heal me!”

I love Mark’s account of the healing of Blind Bartimaeus. You can feel the pain and the suffering in this blind beggar’s desperate pleas. Bartimaeus had obviously heard the stories of the miracles of Jesus; after three years and hundreds (possibly thousands) of healings everyone had heard about the miracles and most had drawn their conclusions. When you are hurting like this blind man you don’t have time for religious discussions, you just want to get well. That’s why Bartimaeus was shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on me”. What a bold public declaration, Son of David, the Messianic title. People were thrown out of their synagogues for less than that, but Bartimaeus had nothing to lose. Mark described the blind man’s shouting with a word used for animals screeching. The blind man was not going to be ignored, he was demanding some kind of response, he knew this was his one time shot at life.

The crowds tried to shush him but Jesus called for him, “Bring that blind man to Me”.

Bartimaeus threw away his mendicant coat and made his way to Jesus. He wouldn’t be needing that coat anymore, his life was about to begin. Why did Mark mention that coat anyway? Why was that so important? That coat was Bartimaeus’s way of supporting himself. He was a beggar, this coat was his ticket for provision, issued to guarantee his right to beg. He wouldn’t be needing help from any man anymore he was about to get a real life.

“What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus seemed to be asking the obvious. “I want to see”, Bartimaeus boldly declared. “Your faith has made you whole. Go in peace”. Instantly the former blind man saw the face of Jesus, a smile bright enough to light the whole world. “Go in peace?” You’ve got to be kidding. Bartimaeus wasn’t going anywhere. He began to follow Jesus down the road.

I love the end of this story the best. Too many times answered prayers are squandered on people who just return to their old way of life after they get their miracle. Not Bartimaeus, He was going to follow Jesus. He had gotten more than physical eyesight that day, He had his spiritual eyes opened. When he saw Jesus, he realized this was what he was born for; to know Jesus and live for him the rest of his life.

The Art of Grace

Merry Tuesday by Parris

“The many-colored tapestry of God’s grace” 1 Pet.4:10

If there is one thing I have seen with pastoring its the many ways God meets mankind. He is not ill equipped nor is he surprised at our shenanigans . There is no story nor experience that a person can tell that he, “the father of lights” cannot reach. Redemption can never be put on paper, in a box, figured out or fully understood. Even the angels are mystified! Our creator loves to use his artistic flair when it comes to his grace in every situation. If you could put words in color I believe grace has all the colors combined or one could say that out of grace all the colors flow. Barclay says that “the grace of God is a many-colored thing that can match and meet every possible situation in life. To speak of grace as Poikilos it means artful, clever, resourceful that no possible problem can arise to which the grace of God cannot supply the solution, no possible task can be laid upon which the grace of God cannot find a way to do.

Have you ever been in such a conundrum of events that you lost yourself? How wonderful it is to know that the God of the universe is creating a wonderful canvas of graceful art around your situation. It’s your story and yours alone! Allow the God of the universe to paint!

A great exchange takes place when we decide to grasp his hand in our cliff hanger situations and let him help us through. What a deal!

Barclay continues with, “There is no possible set of circumstances, no possible crisis, emergency or demand through which the grace of God cannot find a way, and which the grace of God cannot triumphantly deal with and overcome. There is nothing in life with which the grace of God cannot cope. This vivid word poikilos leads our thoughts straight to that many-colored grace of God which is indeed sufficient for all things.”

Lets buzz through the Bible and recall all the many colored adventures we see our faithful brothers meet in this poikilos encounter. We stand amazed how 90 year old people go back in time with their bodies, to bear a child, we wonder how it was like to be in a belly of whale, or when Moses had the glory on his face when he talked with God, or what was it like when Joshua saw the Lord of Hosts? Jacob with the spotted and speckled sheep or the ascending ladder. Love the fourth man in the fire, and who will ever understand what happened on the island of Patmos. Each time the art of grace swallowed up one’s sorrow to create a blazing spectacle of God’s glory. Show me your canvas!

FAIR, FAIR, ONLY FAIR CHRIST

The upright love Thee” —Song of Solomon 1:4

Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength. That pretty much covers everything, the seat of our affections and the spring of all our actions is our heart. But doesn’t the Bible teach that our hearts are desperately wicked? How can anyone obey this first and greatest of all commandments? This is exactly where grace comes in. The influence of God’s grace on our lives is to love things we used to be apathetic about; namely the Lord. The first evidence of true conversion is an attraction and love for the Lord. Once our hearts are consumed with love for Him our mind and our strength follow after him. Our whole being becomes inflamed with a passion for the Lord. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes this.

“Believers love Jesus with a deeper affection then they dare to give to any other being. They would sooner lose father and mother then part with Christ. They hold all earthly comforts with a loose hand, but they carry Him fast locked in their bosoms. They voluntarily deny themselves for His sake, but they are not to be driven to deny Him. It is scant love which the fire of persecution can dry up; the true believer’s love is a deeper stream than this….. This is no every-day attachment which the world’s power may at length dissolve….It is written, and nothing can blot out the sentence, “The upright love Thee.” The intensity of the love of the upright, however, is not so much to be judged by what it appears as by what the upright long for. It is our daily lament that we cannot love enough. Would that our hearts were capable of holding more, and reaching further. Like Samuel Rutherford, we sigh and cry, “Oh, for as much love as would go round about the earth, and over heaven—yea, the heaven of heavens, and ten thousand worlds—that I might let all out upon fair, fair, only fair Christ.”

I knew something radical and authentic happened to me when I first accepted Christ. How did I know? I loved Him. That was unexplainable and so far from where I had been before. I loved Jesus then and I love Him now. He started this life of love in me many years ago (46 years ago at this writing) and it burns even stronger now than it did at the beginning. He is altogether lovely.

WORDS FROM A DEAF MAN WITH A SPEECH IMPEDIMENT

Mk.7:32-35 – Some people brought to him a deaf man with a severe speech impediment. They pleaded with Jesus to place his hands on him and heal him.

So Jesus led him away from the crowd to a private spot. Then he stuck his fingers into the man’s ears and placed some of his saliva on the man’s tongue. Then he gazed into heaven, sighed deeply, and spoke to the man’s ears and tongue, “Ethpathakh,” which is Aramaic for “Open up, now!”

At once the man’s ears opened and he could hear perfectly, and his tongue was untied and he began to speak normally.

God’s word is full of power and revelation. Today, I want to take a look at this miracle and make some observations that stand out to me from God’s word.

My first observation, this man represents all of us when we try to function in life without Christ dynamically involved in all we do. He was deaf and had a severe speech impediment. Without revelation we can’t “hear” the Lord’s voice in our life. When we don’t hear His voice, all of our speech is garbled and void of power. I call that a spiritual speech impediment.

The second thing that stands out to me is this, they brought this man to Jesus and pled with the Lord for healing. This is how we deal with all of our issues, bring them to Jesus and petition Him for intervention. He responds when we bring our problems directly to Him.

Next, I notice that Jesus took this man away from the crowd. This accomplished two things, He was away from the noise and unbelief of the world, and He was alone with Jesus. That is where miracles always take place, this is where lives are made whole.

Jesus then did the unthinkable, He put His fingers in the man’s ears, spit on His hand, and put the saliva on the man’s tongue. When you take drastic measures like that, somebody better get healed.

Finally Jesus looked into heaven and commanded this man ears to be opened immediately.

The results? This man began to speak and hear. The people were amazed and began to glorify God. Let this passage soak into your heart. Maybe you will hear His voice and speak with a new clarity as you get alone with Jesus.

LOVE THE PIGS MORE THAN THE LORD

Lk.8:35-37 – Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.

People never cease to amaze me. The region of Gadara had obviously run out of options dealing with the man we know as the Gadarene demoniac. After trying all that they could to deal with this man they bound him hand and foot and left him in the cemetery outside of town to die. Apparently that didn’t go well because he would break the fetters and chains and go about wailing throughout their region. That all ended abruptly the day Jesus landed on their shore. He cast out the spirits with a word and the tormented man was dressed properly and seated at the feet of Jesus. Only one small problem, the demons that were in this man entered the townspeople’s herd of pigs which abruptly drowned themselves in the lake. Check out what the early reformer Konrad Pellikan had to say about this.

“They were eager for Jesus to leave their region, because they were afraid of his power but did not understand his goodness. They were more greatly shaken by the loss of the pigs than by the man restored to health. Nevertheless they did not dare to throw him out but made a public request that he would withdraw to their borders, they were all so seized by fear. And so Jesus, rather than throwing pearls before swine or giving dogs what is holy, returned to the ship.”

So this is the shocking part, the town folks were unfazed by the miracle that this tormented man experienced, all they cared about was their pigs and their money. This is a terrifying thought, the Lord could be moving in poor, tormented people all around us and we don’t even notice. Recognizing the work of God in hurting people is huge, without that we have missed the whole point of life. Christ came to restore broken lives, embracing that is what our Christian faith is all about.

SET FREE FROM DEMONS

Mk.5:2-5 – And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.

This scene sounds like a terrible horror movie. Jesus and the disciples crossed over the sea at night, dealt with a storm that almost capsized their boat, and were met on the shore in a cemetery by a demonized man. He was shouting, probably an obscenity laced barrage, at Jesus. The spirits inhabiting him recognized who Jesus was. Immediately a struggle began between the tormented man and the inhabiting spirits. The man fell at Jesus feet in worship, the spirits were raging trying to scare and intimidate the Lord.

This story is a great picture of humans bound by sin and destructive spirits who do not have the capacity to fix their broken and tormented lives. This demonized man from Gadara was freed with a word from the Lord. Our tormented souls are set free in the same way, one word from the Lord, and just like the storm Jesus had just stilled, our souls enter into His rest. Here are some comments from the NIBC on this passage.

“The man is described as both fully captive to the powers of evil and beyond any human help. Further, his dwelling among the tombs, the “dwelling” of the dead, almost makes him like a zombie, a living dead–man. Finally, he is self destructive and obviously in torment. All of this is a powerful picture of how the NT describes the condition of humans apart from Christ: Spiritually dead and in bondage to evil. Of course the helpless condition of the man and the powerful grip of the demons also show the extent of Jesus’ power and authority. The eerie conversation between Jesus and the demons, who say that they are many, and the strange account of the destruction of the herd of pigs underscore what a powerful force Jesus was up against.”

Maybe you feel like you have been placed in chains and you are just hanging around waiting to die. I think Jesus just came ashore in your world. Fall at His feet and worship, He will do the rest.

WHO IS THIS MAN?

Mk.5:41 – And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Who is this man?! One minute He seems exhausted, passed out in the back of the boat. The storm is raging, the waves and the wind are beating on the ship, and water is pouring into the boat; Jesus is unfazed by it all and sleeps through everything. In a panic, the disciples awaken the Lord; “Hush! Calm down!” He commands the wind and the waves, instantly the lake was flat and the wind was non-existent. Who is this man?!

Sometimes, He seemed like just another ordinary man. The neighbors and family members (except for Mary) thought He was just another guy. You know, that’s the carpenter’s son, Jesus. The disciples weren’t quite sure who this man was, commanding wind and waves gave them another glimpse into His identity, God’s only begotten Son. Here is how the JFB Commentary describes this verse.

“What manner of man is this? And they feared exceedingly — were struck with deep awe. and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? — “What is this?” Israel has all along been singing of JEHOVAH, “Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, Thou stillest them!” “The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea!”. But, lo, in this very boat of ours is One of our own flesh and blood, who with His word of command hath done the same! Exhausted with the fatigues of the day, He was but a moment ago in a deep sleep, undisturbed by the howling tempest, and we had to waken Him with the cry of our terror; but rising at our call, His majesty was felt by the raging elements, for they were instantly hushed.”

Maybe you feel like you are in a storm. Storms come in all shapes and sizes. Apparently the one the experienced fishermen were dealing with that night was pretty severe, they thought they were dying. If they really knew Who it was sleeping in their boat that night maybe they would have responded in a different way. I think Mark included this story in his gospel because he knew all of us go through storms and rarely realize Jesus is right there on the boat with us. If you are a little scared, wake Him up with your prayers, He won’t mind at all.