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Preparing the Church for the future

Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

Day 52: Who Murdered Jesus?

Posted by undergroundchurch on April 22, 2011


Scriptural Nuggets Daily DevotionScriptural Nuggets Daily Devotion

Several years ago, Mel Gibson came out with the movie The Passion of the Christ. A lot of controversy swirled because one could draw a conclusion from the movie that the Jews killed Jesus.

While there is no question from Scripture that the rejection of the Jews was the basis for Jesus murder and that the leaders of the Jews wanted Jesus killed, I propose that they were only a party to the crime.  The actual murder still lives today.

The Romans

The Roman leaders were acting in behalf of the Jewish leadership because the Jews could not, under Roman law, sentence a man to death. Pilate, Herod and company simply placed their stamp of approval on the murder of an innocent man and condemned him to death.

So who killed Jesus?

The Roman guards were the ones who beat and whipped him.  They were the ones who pulled out his beard and crowned his head with thorns. They were the brutes who made him carry his own instrument of death to the top of a dirty hill where they stripped him of his clothes, casting lots for his underwear and  nailing his hands and feet to cross beams of wood to be raised up in order to let the sun beat on his naked, battered and bruised body for six long torturous hours.

The Roman guards watched him breath his last and saw the darkness and earthquakes.  They made sure of his death by thrusting a spear in his side.  So obviously, they are guilty.

But wait…

Didn’t Jesus say from the cross, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing”?

So maybe they aren’t the only ones guilty.

So who murdered Jesus?

Judas

Let’s blame Judas.  If he didn’t betray Jesus to the Jews, maybe Jesus would still be walking the earth today.  That back-stabbing man ate dinner with Jesus just before he sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver… the cost of a slave, and to add insult to injury, he pointed him out to the Jewish leaders with a kiss of friendship.

But wait…

Didn’t Jesus approve Judas’ task by telling him before hand, “What you are going to do, do quickly”.  That really muddies the waters.

So who murdered the perfect man?

His Father

What about God?  I mean, didn’t God send his son to earth to die? How many fathers would do that to their child? Didn’t he love Jesus? Didn’t he care? Couldn’t he have stopped the whole thing? Didn’t Jesus pray for another way and God not answer that prayer?

But wait…

Didn’t Jesus tell us that “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”. Didn’t he tell us that God so LOVED THE WORLD that he gave his son.  Maybe God’s love for the world was so great that he did what he had to do to make a way for the world to return to him. Maybe Jesus meant what he said in that same prayer when he concluded his plea with “nevertheless – not my will, but your will be done.”

So who was it really?

You and Me

What about us? You know… “the world” that God loves so much.

It started with a man named Adam and a command from God that said, “Don’t eat of this one tree, for in the day you eat of it, you will die”.

Adam defied God’s instruction, and Adam’s first sin planted a seed in each and every person ever born in this world that God loved so much.

Every person is doomed to die apart from God because of sin that rules and reigns in the hearts of men.

Sin lived in the Jews that wanted Jesus dead, the Romans that carried out their wishes, and it lives in you and me today.

It is the sin in us that murdered Jesus.  If we had not sinned, Jesus would not have died.  An innocent lamb sent to the slaughter so that by his death, anyone who believes on him won’t have to die apart from God, but can have eternal life with God.

We are all guilty.  We committed the murder of the ages, a crime beyond any every conceived. We all participated in the death of God, and yet… It is by that very death that we are forgiven for the very murder we committed.

It is the only crime that makes things right again in the heart of those that committed it, but only to those that believe on the saving work Jesus death brings to mankind.

Though we are all murderers, the wrath of God was poured out upon his only son so that we could all live in peace and freedom with God.

So yes, we are all guilty, but you can be free of that guilt by accepting what Jesus went through on your behalf. Believe in Jesus, receive the gift of salvation, ask for forgiveness, confess Jesus Christ as the master of your life and you too can be free of the crime of the ages.

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Breaking News Flash! The Day Goes Dark

Posted by undergroundchurch on April 22, 2011


The Sun Goes Dark: Day becomes Night

by Jeff Ben Les, AP

A day that just seems to be getting weirder by the minute.

It’s been a couple hours since the trial of Yeshua in which he was found innocent yet condemned to death, and the sky is going black.

The guards just brought three men to the top of skull hill to impale them upon wooden beams.  It is a horrific practice of execution invented by the Romans where they nail or tie the victim to a horizontal wooden beam and place it atop a vertical beam planted in the ground.

Suspended between heaven and earth, with their naked bodies completely exposed, they slowly suffocate in agonizing pain while the sun beats down upon their wounded bodies.  It is a death designed for the worst criminals.

In fact, two thieves are being put to death in this manner along side this innocent man found guilty.  In a conversation between the two thieves, one was overheard mocking Yeshua.

The other thief jumped to his defense proclaiming their guilt and recognizing Yeshua’s innocence.

In one of the few words heard from Yeshua throughout this ordeal, he responded to his defender by stating that he would be with him in Paradise.

This seems to go against the tradition of thieves spending eternity in Sheol, but then again, this man is coming to be known as one who defies traditions.

After six hours pass, he is heard again praying to God.  His prayer, though, does not follow reason.  First he speaks in Aramaic asking why God has forsaken him, then he actually  starts praying for the forgiveness of those that are actually killing him while they are killing him.

It could be a mild form of delusion from the stress, but then again, it does seem to follow the pattern of his life.

A few moments ago, he was even making sure that his mother was taken care of by giving her to another man that was standing at his feet.

When asked about this, the man simply replied, “I don’t know why, but He just loved me.”

As the darkness continued to grow, and clouds began to build Yeshua was heard over the wind and the rain as he shouted with his final breath, “It is Finished!”

As soon as he said it, and earthquake tore through the city.  It was such a powerful moment that the guard standing their proclaimed that this man must be the son of God.

There are reports of people that had died, good people,  roaming the streets because their tombs had opened.  However, the claim has not yet been substantiated.

One thing this reporter can say is that even in death, this man, Yeshua, has a huge impact and influence upon those around him.  He death brought his killers forgiveness, which you just don’t see everyday.

Reporting from a hill just outside of Jerusalem, I’m Jeff Ben Les.

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Breaking News Flash! Man Arrested Last Night Goes on Trial this Morning

Posted by undergroundchurch on April 22, 2011


Man Arrested in Garden Gets Planted in Court

by Jeff Ben Les, AP

At about six this morning, just before sunrise, Israel Daylight Time, a ruckus broke out in the halls of local leaders as they dragged a man before the local procurator. After about an hour of questioning, with no apparent results, the procurator sent the man over to the king’s chambers for further investigation.

After another hour of questions that went without answers, the king, Herod, sent the man back over to the procurator, Pontius Pilate.

Further investigation revealed that the man’s name is Yeshua.  He is from a small hillside town in Galilee from which, reportedly, nothing good comes.

One fisherman, wishing to remain nameless, said, “This man was a good man.  My mother-in-law was sick and he healed her… a blessing I did not ask for.”  When asked if the man knew him personally, he denied it.

Another person said of Yeshua, “I know him. He was always hanging out with the wrong crowd.  He’d eat at the houses of the refuse among us.  I think he was even hanging out with prostitutes and leprous people.  Any man like that should be put on trial.”

In contrast, another man with a big smile on his face just kept saying, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I do not know; one thing I do know… I was blind, but now I see!”

More from the trial as it happens.

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Day 51: Bad Supper

Posted by undergroundchurch on April 20, 2011


Scriptural Nuggets Daily DevotionScriptural Nuggets Daily Devotion

I wouldn’t really call the meal Jesus ate with His disciples the “Last Supper”, because He is going to eat with His bride again at the marriage supper of the Lamb. However, I would say that the supper could have gone better.

It would seem that the only two people that knew it would be Jesus’ last meal on earth was Jesus and Judas.  No one else at the meal was catching Jesus’ hints or straight talk like when he said, “The one I hand this bread to is the one who is going to betray me.”

When the disciple heard Jesus say this and saw Judas leave, they thought he was going out to buy more food. Not exactly detectives in the making.

But one point that can be discerned from the meal is the way Jesus treated Judas.

We can discern from the location of the bowls of charoset, the mixture in which Jesus dipped the bread and handed to Judas, that Judas had to be reclining next to Jesus.  We know that John was on the right side because he was actually leaning against Jesus, so that puts Judas on his left.

These two locations were of great significance to the host.  These are the sought after spots. Remember John and James’ mother asking Jesus, “When you enter your kingdom, allow one of my sons to sit on your right and the other on your left.”

It would seem that at the meal, at least one was sitting in that spot – John.

But you get a sense from Jesus that even though he knows that Judas will betray him, Jesus keeps reaching out. He gave him hints, called him out in front of everyone. He gave Judas every opportunity to stop what was in his heart, but in the end, Judas would not be saved.

Jesus still reaches out to millions upon millions every day.  He holds before them the piece of bread, his body, dipped in the charoset, which represented the mortar the Hebrew slaves used to build in Egypt and the suffering they endured.

Jesus says to them, “I suffered and died for you, do not deny me; let me save you.”

But alas, while a few receive the gift with gladness, millions upon millions would not be saved.

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Happy Good Thursday!

Posted by undergroundchurch on April 2, 2010


When was Jesus crucified?

The question has been asked for centuries.  Like many questions of this type, I don’t believe the day of the week or time really matters that much.  What does matter is that He was crucified on a cross for the sin of the world.  But I do want to throw in my two cents just because.

A Long Time Ago

To be honest, technically speaking, He was actually crucified when the foundations of the world were laid (Revelation 13:8Hebrews 9:26).  The crucifixion was not a last minute idea, but was planned by God even before Adam sinned. Even though this might be the spiritual answer, there was an actual day when Jesus was nailed to a tree, and I believe that it is not the day that we call “Good Friday”.

Good Thursday

I might be in the minority with this idea, but I am not convinced that Friday is the day Jesus was Crucified.  We do know that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week (John 20:1, Luke 24:1, Mark 16:9).  We also are pretty clear that it is first day of the week after passover like this year’s is.

Author’s Note: The way the move Easter around has always bugged me. It should not something based on our calendar but based on the Jewish calendar, and it should be the first Sunday after the 14th of Nisan.

The Jewish day started at sunset and ended at sunset the next day.  When the Jewish leaders wanted to get Jesus off the cross before sunset because that day was a “special sabbath” (John 19:31) , it is easy to jump to the conclusion that this meant that He was crucified on Friday since the Sabbath is Saturday.  However, there are two pieces of the puzzle that makes this case not so open and closed.

Jesus Testimony

Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:40

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth

If you run the numbers from Friday to Sunday morning, the best you can do is 2 days and 2 nights that Jesus would be in the ground.  Either Jesus was wrong, or we got it wrong.

OK, you say, “Jesus was being figurative. ”

God thought you might say this and placed a couple of guys in the Bible that tell us how long it was from Jesus death to the first day of the week.

On the day he was resurrected, Jesus is on a walking trip down the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, Cleopas tells Jesus that it has been three days (vs 21)  since the death.

John 19:31 alluded to the Day of Preparation which was part of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and was regarded as a special Sabbath even though it didn’t have to occur on a “Saturday”, so using that idea to make it Friday is not necessary.

I suppose, in short, I believe Jesus’ words.

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Some Thoughts on the End Times – Part 1

Posted by undergroundchurch on October 1, 2009


I might as well do what everybody else seems to do and give a quick thought [teaching] on the End Times.

However, you probably won’t find this quite is comfortable sounding as the Sunday morning version.

Most End Time teaching basically follow this format.

  • The End Comes
  • The Church is Raptured
  • All chaos errupts
  • Jesus comes with all the believers and reigns a 1000 years
  • Final judgement
  • Everyone designated for Hell go there, those designated for Heaven, go there

I may have left out some detail, but you get the gist.

The biggest problem I personally have with this format is that

  1. It isn’t exactly a healthy and accurate assessement and
  2. It gives a false sense that the Church is not going to experience trouble

I call this Sunday morning approach the “Escapist Syndrome

Basically, the Book of Revelation is approached as a letter for those who are left behind.  What I find strange about that is that a large portion of the church teaching that I hear around the nation is on a subject that, according to the syndrome, doesn’t even apply to them.

2 Thessalonian 2:3 and 1 Timothy 4:1 along with other scriptures, speak of a “falling away” in the last days. This has to be about believers, because non-believers can’t fall away by definition. I have always thought that apathy would be the culprit, which may still be the case.  But I fear that there is going to be another unintended consequence to current teaching that will cause many to flee the faith.

There is a phobia, I believe, in pulpits to talk about bad things.  Blessings and prosperity, God’s best for your life, God loves you, all have their place, but we are inundated by an unhealthy amount of rose petal teaching. Even roses, though, have thorns, and the teachings of Jesus, Paul, James, and John do a much better job painting reality and have a much more balanced approach to understanding the end times than we American Christians pocesses.

The Right Balance

Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” – Mark 4:16 and 17

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:35-40

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” – Matthew 24:9-13

Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. – John 15:20

And I could go on and on.

I think that church leaders fear that if the truth of persecution, the reality of hard times, and the fate of being hated as Jesus was hated were preached from a pulpit, they wouldn’t fill the chairs on a Sunday morning, but I think that the greater disservice is not telling followers of Christ the truth.  Tough times are coming! The church in America will be one day like the church in China and North Korea having to hide their $10,000 signs and abandon the $20 million buildings.  It is only a matter of time.

But in it all, no matter what happens, Jesus prepared us for this inevitable outcome.  All the prayer in the world, though it may delay it, will not stop it because it is part of the Plan of God.

I will end this part with what I consider to be the problem facing the future church because of the methodology of church teaching today.

The falling away will most likely come from Christians who have succumbed to the escapism syndrome and when the persecution in American and other “free nations” comes, they will ask the question,

Why? Why didn’t you tell me?  Why did you get my hopes up?  Why didn’t you prepare me?”

And they simply won’t have the strength to stand up under the pressure because they will feel betrayed and misled.  They will think that Jesus is not ever coming back because they never thought they’d be thrown into a prison in America just because they gathered with like believers.  The concerns of their world will outweigh their perceived need for a savior.

They thought is was all about prosperity and glory, but will find that the reality of the coming of the Son of Man will be like the birth of a child.  It will be painful while the child prepares to arrive, but the joy for those that endure to the end will be like holding that little baby in the arms.  All the pain in the birthing process will quickly fade in the joy of a new life with Christ forever.

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The Immanuel Project: Chapter 6: The Incarnation

Posted by undergroundchurch on June 25, 2009


Click here for Chapter 5

There is something about the Bible that I always found curious.  There are some doctrines we believe today that aren’t talked about in the Scriptures like we do today.  For example, the Trinity doctrine is based on many passages. But no single passage exists that says, “Jesus is the Son of God, the Father is God and the Holy Spirit is God, yet all three are one and yet they are different.  We call this the ‘Trinity’.”

From a theological point of view it would be great to point someone to that one scripture and say, “See, it says right here as plain as day.”

The Scriptures are not laid out in “doctrinal” fashion.  They are designed to make you read them and discover what God is saying.  In fact, God says, “search the scriptures”.  He wants you to read them, not as a doctrinal thesis, but as a living love letter from Him to you.  The Bible, unlike any book you will ever read, is alive.  God uses it to speak to His people.  If it was just doctrine, it would not have that personal touch.  It would come across more as a “rule book” and less as a book that shows God reaching out to man passionately.

Probably the greatest example of this is the doctrine of God.  You will not find in the pages of scripture any place where God sets out to prove His existence.  In fact, God is just “assumed”. 

Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God…”  He doesn’t waste any time talking about why He exists, what His purpose is for existence, how we know He really exists.  He just states unequivocally, “I exist”.

Later He takes that statement as His name.  When God first called Moses at the burning bush event,  Moses asks a great question, “Who do I tell them [Pharaoh and Israel] who sent me.”

God answers Moses, “Tell them the ‘I am’ sent you”.

Moses never proves that God exists; only that Egypt’s gods are no gods at all.  The Egyptians already knew there had to be some form of deity above man.  They just had it wrong when it came to who that deity was.

God is not the substance of his creation.  He is not divided up into multiple gods constantly warring. He is not the uncaring, uninvolved sovereign that just lets the world runs its course without His loving intervention.  He is, and He alone is God… period end of discussion.

The name “I am” became so closely associated with God, that Jesus was accused of being a blasphemous deceiver by the Jewish rulers because He used the “I am” phrase when referring to Himself.  He said, “Before Abraham was, ‘I am’.”

The incarnation was the single most significant event in human history.  It was talked about for centuries before, but when it actually occurred, man was somewhat disappointed.  They did not understand the purpose of the incarnation.  They wanted something substantially different.  This misunderstanding was due to the fact that they misinterpreted the Scriptures, and Jesus held them accountable for not understanding the Scriptures. 

To understand the incarnation better, you have to understand why it occurred. 

The prophets had foretold that the deliverer or “Messiah” would come.  I don’t think anybody had any real issue with that.  The problem was that nobody understood the purpose in His coming. 

The Scriptures give two main functions of the Messiah, and I think that the problem everyone ran into was because they blended the two together or they simply ignored all the bad parts and just wanted to believe the good stuff.

The two veins are as follows:  The Messiah would be a conquering king, and the Messiah would be a suffering servant.

Put yourself in the shoes of the typical Jewish leader in Jesus’ day.  You are preaching your messages on Saturday morning for generations about the Messiah who would come.  Do you think they concentrated on the parts that showed him suffering, dying and being rejected by the Jews, or do you think they preached about the conquering king that would come and deliver His people from the captors and rule the world putting all of Israel’s enemies under His feet?

They weren’t about to ruin their Saturday morning crowds with bad news. They only wanted to see the good news.

The problem is that they didn’t understand that the bad news of the Messiah’s suffering was their good news.  The words “good news” are translated “gospel” and that is defined by Paul as the following, “Jesus died, was buried and rose again.”  Yes that’s bad news, but it is also good news and even greater news when you receive the news with joy.

The Pharisees knew Jesus might be the Messiah. They were just waiting for Him to take out about a legion of Roman guards to prove it.  Jesus never took out a legion of Roman guards.  He did, however, take out a legion of demons because He was more interested in the condition of man’s souls that the comfort of His circumstances.

Sadly, the preachers of the Bible today aren’t too far from committing the same error in misinterpreting the Bible like the teachers in Jesus day.

For example, I listen to well intentioned teaching that attempts to convince the church in America that we won’t go through the time of tribulation.  Like everyone else, I wish that were true, but I don’t think that is a good way to approach the teaching about prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled.

I am going to let a little secret slip.  The easiest thing to preach about is the end times.  There are two reasons for it.  First, I could take the prophecies and make them say whatever I want and turn around and exempt the church from any of it. 

Second, It is a feel good message because if I exempt the church from going through the tribulation, then I don’t have to worry about what’s in the book of Revelation, but it sure is fun to talk about.

Have you ever noticed how much teaching is out there about the end times?  But the way it is presented, the church will never even go through it, so why teach it?

I don’t want you to get me wrong about what I believe the Bible teaches concerning the church and the End Times. I just think that you walk on very dangerous ground when you speak so matter-of-fact about future events found in prophecy. 

The popular approach to the end times is that the church is raptured and then the tribulation begins.  This would mean that about seventeen chapters in Revelation as well as about a half dozen other chapters throughout the Bible have nothing to do with the church.  Yet it is a favorite subject for Sunday morning service.  Isn’t that what the Jewish teachers were doing about the Messiah?  They only wanted to see the good parts, not the bad parts. 

The Bible says that there will be a great falling away in the last days.  People will believe the Lie.  

Remember, these are Christians that are falling away. Why do you think they will be deceived so easily?  It might be because they are sitting in the middle of the tribulation time having to make a decision about the whether they want the mark of the Beast or they want to die, and they are saying to themselves, “This is not what my pastor told me would happen.  He said I’d be rescued out of this.  How can God love me and allow me to go through this?”

I am saddened when our American interpretation of the end times makes it to a place like Africa.  I have heard the testimonies from Christians that already have fallen victim to that teaching while they are experiencing their tribulation time.  They fall away because they thought that they would be rescued from it.

The Christians of old never taught that.  They knew that tribulation would come. The church was born in a time of tribulation.  The world couldn’t kill Christians fast enough, yet the church grew.  They did not believe for one second that they would be rescued from tribulation.  They knew they would be preserved through any tribulation that came their way.

We have so convinced people that tribulation won’t happen in their lifetimes that they will be pouring out of the churches when it actually does happen.  Preachers today are no different than those early Jewish teachers.  The only hope is that we catch ourselves before it is too late and begin teaching the truth that we may very well go through tribulation.  We may very well find out who the anti-Christ is.  We may have to make a choice to take the mark of the Beast or die instead.  It may not be a “feel good” message now, but when the tribulation time comes, and it will come, those that are prepared will prevail.

The purpose of prophecy is not to tell you what will happen as much as it is designed to prepare you for what will happen.  If you teach that the church isn’t going to experience anything, then you aren’t preparing anybody for anything. 

The best interpretation for prophecy is to recognize its fulfillment when it occurs.  Jesus tells the Jewish leaders that they should have recognized the times and seasons they were in and they would have realized that the prophecies were coming true. In fact, Jesus holds them accountable for not knowing the time of His coming which is actually given to the precise day in Daniel 9:25.  We don’t have that kind of precision in Revelation, so we need to always be watchful, vigilant and prepared. 

I like what one person said, “Be ready as if Jesus is coming back today, prepare as if He isn’t coming back until the Millennium.”

I chased a little rabbit there, but I’m back now.

Jesus came as the “I am”.  He was God in flesh.  Believe it or not, that concept proved to be a bigger problem for the first century believer than the fact that Jesus was God.

You won’t find many Scriptures trying to convince you that Jesus is God.  Like God’s existence, Jesus is assumed to be God.  John 1, Philippians 2 and a smattering of other passages is all you have to tell you unequivocally, “Jesus is God”.

The most talked about subject concerning Jesus is, “How could God be in the flesh”.  You will see every writer in the New Testament spend time convincing their readers that God came in the flesh. 

The problem stemmed from the Greek influences of the day.  Essentially, they believed that matter was evil and spirit was good.  When applied to Christ, they could not conceive how God, being spirit, could become man and therefore evil.

They tried many different workarounds.  One teaching taught that God came and appeared in the form of man, but really wasn’t flesh and blood like man is.  Another taught that he was somewhat of an apparition or ghost.  You could see him, but you couldn’t touch him.  These teachings though nullify the sacrifice.  Jesus had to be like us to be our sacrifice and literally die.

The incarnation solved the issue of God in flesh.  He was fully God and fully man. He was the “I am” and He was the son of Mary. 

The incarnation took God from birth to death in the robes of man’s flesh.

It shocks you to think that God had to potty train, God had to learn to walk, learned to talk, God scraped His knee on the dirt roads, hit His thumb with a hammer.  But if you want to believe Jesus was man, you have to believe that He experience what man experiences.

He cried, He laughed, He joked, He smiled, and He felt hurt and pain and rejection.  When it came time for him to crucified on a cross, He felt every stroke of the whip, every fist across His face, every bone wrenching hit with a hammer on the nails that pierced His hands and feet, every thorn of the crown beat down on His head.  He felt the beard being pulled out. He felt the pain of the jeering crowd. He felt the insult of spittle running down His beaten face; He felt his love for man being violated to the highest degree. He felt his Father God turn His back on Him in His greatest moment of agony as His bore the weight of the world’s sin. He felt the pain in every breath He gasped for while hanging by His arms, and He felt his heart beat its last beat as He gave up His Spirit when He said, “It is finished”.

If He was not fully man, the suffering servant couldn’t have suffered that much.  But because He was one of us, He could be that ultimate sacrifice for our sin that we so desperately needed.

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The Immanuel Project: Chapter 4: Blending the Spiritual and the Physical

Posted by undergroundchurch on June 22, 2009


 Click here for Chapter 3 

When we think in terms of the physical world, we usually think materialistically.  Scientists describe our universe as multi-dimensional.  There are the three dimensions of space, the dimension of time, physical properties of gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces.  These are things that we can perceive and touch.  We know them.  We are familiar with their effects. We base our beliefs on our understanding of the physical world. The bottom line… if it doesn’t fit in our understanding of the universe, then it can’t possibly be true.

Scientists are actually discovering that our universe has at least eleven dimensions to it.  Much of this is “unknowable” currently.

Any way you look at it, the physical universe is huge, but there is a world even larger – the Spiritual world. 

The spiritual universe is a much larger domain than we give it credit.  God, the angels, demons and Satan operate primarily in this world.  Good and evil, sin and love abide in this world along with things that man cannot even utter[i] The physical world in which we live is not separate from the spiritual world but a part of the spiritual world – albeit a very small part. 

Which do you think came first, the spiritual world or the physical world? 

According to the creation account, God made the three components of our universe in the beginning.  In Genesis 1:1, 3, God creates matter, space, time and energy. “In the beginning (time), God created the heavens (space) and the earth (matter). God said, let there be light (energy) and there was light”

God did all of this from the “spiritual world”.  God had to actually create the space in which everything in the physical world exists.  Laws were set up at the beginning that made this physical universe work.  Gravity keeps the planets close to the sun, light keeps everything alive on the earth, etc.

We know many of the physical laws that govern our world, i.e. gravity, time, space, etc.  We are bound by these laws in our physical universe.  However, these laws do not apply to the spiritual world.  In the spiritual world, there is no time, space, gravity that we can define, but somehow things that happen in our world affect the spiritual world. 

Did you realize that the act of disobedience by Adam and Eve in this physical world initiated the seed of sin in man that would cause every person ever born of man to be born into sin?[ii]  Our physical world and the spiritual world are connected.  Sin is a spiritual property with physical symptoms.  God said to Adam, “In the day you eat of [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you will die.”[iii] The act of spiritual sin brought the result of physical death.

Likewise, events that happen in the spiritual world directly impact the physical universe.  The spiritual laws of sowing and reaping[iv] cannot be tied to any physical property.  Jesus said, “You will reap what you sow.” This happens because the spiritual law applies to physical actions.  God even tells us to test out this law and see if he doesn’t bless you. [v]

One of the Ten Commandments comes with a physical promise.  “Respect you father and mother – God, your God, commands it! You’ll have a long life; the land that God is giving you will treat you well.”[vi]

How can you attribute long life to obeying your parents?  I know what you’re thinking, “You didn’t know my parents.  If we disobeyed, they’d kill us.”  Perhaps, but the principle addressed here is a spiritual blessing that affects a physical property.

Even the simple act of blessing and curses can have a profound physical impact on people.  They are sounds uttered that can physically encourage or destroy even those that did not even hear the blessing. 

Isaac and Jacob are remembered for their faith, not because of some act they performed, but because they spoke spiritual words of blessing over their kids believing that generations later, those words would be true.  The surprising thing is that they did come true.

I love how the Message version reads in Hebrews 11:20 and 21, “By an act of faith, Isaac reached into the future as he blessed Jacob and Esau. By an act of faith, Jacob on his deathbed blessed each of Joseph’s sons in turn, blessing them with God’s blessing, not his own–as he bowed worshipfully upon his staff.”

They reached into the future in their blessing.  Words get their power because they are so closely tied to the spiritual world.  In fact, every word you utter is recorded in the spiritual world by God and you will be held accountable.[vii]

Words are what we use to communicate with the spiritual world.  The function of words operates on sound waves, but it’s not the sound that causes communication; it is the understanding.

Our prayers offered to the Lord are done upon the wings of words.  It’s the transport system that God established to reach into the spiritual world and communicate with the creator of the universe. 

Jesus tells us that we are not to live only on physical matter (bread) but on spiritual food (Words of God)[viii]

In our world, words don’t mean what they used to mean. Once upon a time, a man’s word was his bond.  Today, you need 300 page contracts with signatures and initials on every page in order to carry out a transaction.  On top of that you have fine print, hidden clauses, and addendums.  The words used are only legible to a select group of individuals called lawyers.

But in God’s eyes, the testimony of two or three witnesses establishes a matter.[ix]  Words still mean things with God.  They are so valuable, in fact, that He sent the portion of the Godhead known as the “Word” to our world in the form of Jesus.

Think about that.  Jesus is the Word of God.  Everything God has uttered is wrapped up in this part of God.  How awesome is that?

Think of Jesus as the verbal contract of God with man.  When Jesus succeeded in his earthly journey and climaxed it on the cross, God was essentially signing His verbal contract with man in the blood of His Son.  It cannot get any more powerful than that.

So what do I mean when I say, blending the physical and spiritual?

To better explain this, I am going to use the illustration of the electromagnetic spectrum.  Simply put this is the field of energy in the universe that gives us light in its various forms. The only real difference between the different types of energy in the electromagnetic spectrum is the wave length. 

If I have lost you, let’s try it this way.  Visible light is the light you see made up of the colors of the rainbow – violet through red.  What you can’t see in the light spectrum is everything to the left of violet where the waves get further apart (i.e. ultra-violet, X-rays, Gamma Rays) and everything to the right of red where the waves get closer together (i.e. infrared, radar, FM Radio waves, Television waves, shortwave, AM radio waves, etc.)  Although all these items exist in the same electromagnetic spectrum, you can’t see them.  You can only see a very small portion of the whole spectrum – namely visible light.

You can only see the influence of an AM radio by capturing the electromagnetic waves using a tool called a radio.  This gadget is specifically designed to capture and send waves of energy through the electromagnetic spectrum. These waves are all around you everywhere you go, but you can’t see them until you turn on your radio.

In a similar way, our physical universe is actually part of a larger spiritual universe.  We can’t see into the rest of the spiritual universe without some sort of tool – i.e. prayer, the bible, etc. 

Man is drawn to this spiritual universe because man is part spiritual creature as much as he is a physical creation.  Since man decided to walk away from God, he has tried every sort of tool to contact the spiritual world.  Witchcraft, horoscopes, astral projection, Hinduism, etc. are all created by man to reach into the spiritual world and somehow grasp this larger universe.  The sad truth is that it accomplishes that feat.  However, the contact with the spiritual world is not controlled by God, but by every evil force that resides in the spiritual world. 

God never forbid us to contact the spiritual world, He just said, “There is only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”[x]  God provided us with two basic tools to communicate with the spiritual world – the Bible and prayer through Jesus.  The person we are to contact in the spiritual world is specifically defined, “You shall have no other God before me”[xi]

In fact, God encourages us to spend as much time as possible in contact with the spiritual world.  He tells us to be filled with the Spirit of God.[xii] We need to fast and pray and spend time in the Word.  We need to devote ourselves to God wholeheartedly.

The spiritual and physical worlds are interconnected and God designed it that way. 

Have you ever wondered why God sent Jesus into this world to die for our sins?  Couldn’t God have just rewritten the contract in heaven and be done with it?  If sin is a spiritual matter, couldn’t it have been taken care of in the spiritual world alone?

The short answer is, “No.”

There were spiritual laws and penalties to sin that had to be accounted for.  God doesn’t “cook the books”.  He doesn’t make accounting errors.  Everything must be addressed.  Every dime must be accounted for.  The wage for sin is death.[xiii]

Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood, there is no freedom from sin.  A price must be paid and it couldn’t happen in the spiritual world because God can’t die.

How then do you overcome this dilemma?  How does a God that can’t die, die?

That’s where the physical world comes in.  If God could totally take on the elements that would confine him to the physical universe he could tie himself to humanity by making himself human – fully man.  If this can be accomplished, then He could die.  But how do you do this?

God had a plan from the beginning to come into this world in such a way that the sin in this world would not corrupt Him and in a way that would make sure that He was fully man and therefore able to die.

 


[i] 2 Corinthians 12:3,4

[ii] Romans 3:23

[iii] Genesis 2:17

[iv] Galatians 6:7

[v] Malachi 3:10

[vi] Deuteronomy 5:16 (MSG)

[vii] Matthew 12:36

[viii] Matthew 4:4

[ix] Matthew 18:16

[x] 1 Timothy 2:5

[xi] Deuteronomy 5:7

[xii] Ephesians 5:18

[xiii] Romans 6:23

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The Immanuel Project: Chapter 3 The Ultimate Sacrifice

Posted by undergroundchurch on June 16, 2009


Click Here for Chapter 2

Chapter 3: The Ultimate Sacrifice – Challenging what you thought you knew

The concept of the previous chapter proves challenging for me to understand completely.  I find myself revisiting it and discovering a little more each time.  In the midst of one of those visits, I stumbled upon something that shocked me.  And when I saw it, my heart clung to God all the more knowing that His sacrifice held more significance and value than I could ever imagine.   

Quick quiz – what was the sacrifice God made for our sin?  If you answered Jesus’ death on the cross you would be agreeing with every true believer.  Our payment was made when the Messiah/Savior died.  His death fulfilled so many prophecies and types and has been venerated throughout scripture.  But one day I asked some tough questions that I have never heard asked, “If Jesus died, rose and went back to heaven, where is the sacrifice?  What is the cost?  What did He lose if everything is as it was before He came to earth in the manger? Isn’t a sacrifice supposed to cost something?”

Every sacrifice that you read about in the Bible meant that the one sacrificing would not regain the sacrificed object. It was lost forever.  It could have been burnt up with fire or in the belly of some priest that just ate it, but it was gone.  Sacrifice by definition means you lose it.

With that in mind, how do you explain Jesus’ sacrifice?  If you think that Jesus set aside robes of deity, put on robes of man, walked the earth 33 years, died, rose again and went back to heaven as he was before He came, then the sacrifice was more of a rental than a purchase.  No harm, no foul as they would say.  But I ask, “Is that what happened?”

To put Jesus’ sacrifice in perspective, one must first understand what Jesus was sacrificing.

We already know that God can’t die.  So how did Jesus die if He can’t die?  I know that the simple response is, “He died physically but spiritually he didn’t die.”  That may be a nice, simple answer, but then I go back to my initial question, “Where is the sacrifice?”  That human body was only temporary.  Death was only for a moment.  How did God’s sacrifice cost Him?

It was while pondering this that I felt the Lord illuminate some scripture for me.  It comes from a little passage in 1 John 3:2, “We shall be like Him”.  I’ve read that scripture many times, but never really understood it until that day.  This scripture opens up a huge mystery – what is his present condition that defines “how” we shall be like Him?  In order to find out what we will be like, we need to know what He is like.

If you say that Jesus is as He was before the incarnation, then you can translate this to mean we will be gods, spirit beings.  But I believe scripture argues against that point.  In fact, the Bible actually describes for us what he is like right now; we just have to put the pieces together.

After the resurrection, Jesus describes Himself like this, “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; handle Me and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.”[i]

Jesus tells us after His resurrection that he wasn’t “spirit” but that He was “flesh and bone”.  Remember Thomas?  When Jesus appeared before him, He held out his hands and showed him His side to show Thomas the scars.[ii] Years later John the apostle, while writing about his Revelation of Jesus, describes seeing Jesus in heaven and that He looked like “a lamb that had been slaughtered”.[iii] 

I believe the Bible is showing us that Jesus is still bearing the scars that He took on the cross for our sins.  If He existed in the same form He was in before the incarnation, then Jesus would not be bearing any scars.  He would be Spirit – better known as “the Word”.[iv]  Somehow, Jesus’ actual form altered so that physical traits from this world passed on to His spiritual body. 

God’s form as a whole was altered when Jesus came to earth.  Until that point, Jesus was so much a part of the Godhead that there was virtually no way to distinguish the “Son” from the “Father” because in order to be the “Son” Jesus had to be born.  To illustrate this further, Matthew tells us that when Mary asks how she is going to have a child because she was a virgin, the angel told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her[v].  In essence, the Holy Spirit and the Father are present for the inception of Jesus into the womb, yet only the Father is called “Father”.  My point is that it is impossible to tell where the Father stops and the Holy Spirit begins.  Prior to Jesus’ incarnation, we could never tell where either of them started or stopped.  God said that He is one God[E1] .  That singular nature seemingly conflicts with our understanding of plural reality of God.  Yet we must understand Him as being one God.

We [E2] know from the first chapter of John that Jesus has always been.  John uses an interesting name for Jesus prior to the incarnation – “The Word”.[vi]  I have always been fascinated by this name.  What does it mean, and why does John use it?

I must preface my explanation by saying that we only know about God through what He wrote about Himself.  Because the Bible only has a few thousand pages and doesn’t spend all of its time describing God, we know very little.  I believe, as John did, that if you were to begin writing down everything about God, the whole earth couldn’t contain the pages that would be needed.[vii]

Genesis 1:1-3 show the three person Godhead functioning as a unit.  “In the beginning, God created…”  This shows that God is creator – Yet we discover from John’s gospel that Jesus created everything.  How can this be? And where was the Father and Spirit?

Not every mentioning of “God” in the Old Testament was referring only to the Father nor only to the Son.  Sometimes it was a combined mentioning.  In fact, one of the most used words for God in the Hebrew is “Elohim” which is a plural form of God.

I remember when in Israel a few years back, we traveled to the shrine of the Dead Sea scrolls.  The Book of Isaiah is sprawled out across the wall in that building. We had our Jewish guide translate Isaiah from the scroll out loud.  He would actually say, “Gods” when he came to the word “Elohim”.  What I find most interesting about this phenomenon is that the key verse in the Bible for the Jew is Deuteronomy 6:4; it is known as the shema, and it states, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” 

This scripture is called the shema and is the central passage for the Jew, and in reality, all of us.  But the question remains, why does God say He is “one” in this passage and still He uses a plural when referring to his own self elsewhere?

Even Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God…” is plural.  It could rightly be translated, “In the beginning Gods…”

Maybe a better way of translating the shema is the way in which many Hebrew teachers have translated it.  “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God – The Lord alone[E3] .”  This is perhaps a more literal translation and would explain better to us that it is more important that there is no other god than that God is “one” in the literal sense that would confine Him to human understanding of one body, one spirit, one personality, one persona, etc.

Jesus states in one of His dissertations, “I and the Father are one”[viii]  Based on Deuteronomy 6:4, you really have two ways to go from this scripture, either Jesus and the Father are the same literally, or they are one in spirit, deity, purpose, unity, but separate in form. 

There are honest Christians out there that teach the Jesus is the Father.  I can understand the difficulty in reconciling in our minds a concept of oneness and separateness in the same person.  Our culture actually sees that trait as a flaw.  We give medicine to people with split personalities that show these same characteristics. 

There are many issues you have to overcome in scripture though if you want to hold to the belief that Jesus is the Father and there is no other.  First, and most blatant, He prayed to Himself all the time.[ix]

Second, there are scenes in the Bible where you see more than one of the God head in one place at a time.  At Jesus baptism, Jesus is in the water, the Father speaks from heaven and the Spirit descends upon him.[x]

There are many more, but I found one that takes the cake. When God gets ready to create man, He has, what can only be described as, a conversation with Himself.  He says, “Let Us make man in Our image.”  Who is “Us” and “Our”?  Is it God and the angels? 

I hope not.  Heavenly angels are described in almost terrifying terms.  Some have four faces, four arms and four wings, others have six wings.  We see angels on earth looking like man because they took on a messenger form. I suppose this was done so as not to frighten man. But when we see them described in their heavenly form, it isn’t anything like man.

I submit that God is talking about His plural unity.  We have labeled this with another word not found in Scripture – Trinity.  But the result is the same. 

By the time God fashions man from the dirt, He has already revealed himself using the plural term “Gods” found in the Hebrew word Elohim and that God created everything by speaking it into existence.  That word He utters later becomes Jesus the man as described in John 1 as the “Word becoming flesh”.  In addition to all of that, we see the Spirit of God hovering over the water.[xi] So in the end we see Father, Son and Spirit all present, all working in the creation.

For God to say, “Us” and “Our”, He is just continuing the revelation that there is more to God than man can understand. He is plural, and He is singular.  But one thing is for sure; there is no other God like Him.  So you can definitely say, “He is the Lord alone.”

I said all that to say this, God does not change – in essence.  However, there is substantial evidence to suggest that though He is “immutable”, He did transform His likeness for man’s sake.

This transformation began as a promise.  There are many prophetic utterances in the Scriptures indicating that a savior would come from God, some elude more to the concept than the method such as the one in Genesis 3 where God promises to Eve and warns Satan that though Satan would strike at Eve’s “seed’s” heal, Eve’s Seed would crush Satan’s head.  This would be an instance where the concept is present, but how God intends to do it is a mystery.

However, there are some very poignant prophetic moments that reveal the method in which God will fulfill His promise to man.  It is in these scriptures, that we find some incredible revelations concerning the depths God is willing to go to in order to save man.

We too often think of the price paid for our sins as being our sacrifice.  I understand how this can be somewhat confusing, but the sacrifice was not ours, it was God’s.  The sacrifice was made in our place because we couldn’t provide the adequate sacrifice to make the necessary payment for our sin.

The price that was paid by Jesus dying on the cross was the price of our sin.  That event was the atoning payment for our sin.  By definition, a payment costs someone something; however, the payment did not cost us anything.  So I ask; who paid the price?  Of course the answer is Jesus.  But I return to my original question.  If Jesus price was to come to earth, live as a man, die, return to heaven, where is the sacrifice? 

Isaiah reveals to us the key element that truly defines the immensity of Jesus sacrifice. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (this word means “God with Us”)”[xii]

There is a fancy word we use to describe this event, “The Incarnation”.  Literally this word means “in flesh”.  God placed the fullness of the deity of the Word into human flesh.[xiii]  This act translated God from spirit form to flesh form.  He took off robes of immortality, omnipresence and even, for a time, omniscience and became a full participant in His creation.

Jesus went through everything we go through in life – wet diapers, potty training, skinned knees, crawling, learning to walk, the list goes on.  The bible says that he grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.[xiv]  Jesus experienced everything in life that we experience.  This happened because he was fully man and totally susceptible to the laws of this world.  He had to eat, sleep and drink.  At any moment a runaway cart could run Him over and he would be dead (if it were His time) because he was 100% physical in nature.

He totally gave up his divine form for a form that limited him.  In fact, at one point he tells the disciples that if He doesn’t leave, He can’t send the Holy Spirit could dwell in each one of them.[xv] In His earthly form, he could only be in one spot at a time, in the Spirit form, God could be in each of them. 

So what could the sacrifice possibly be?  Is it that God changed clothes?  It is that Jesus died? 

To being, just the thought of God dying causes a stirring of impossible thoughts in me.  It is almost an oxymoron to say “God can die”.  But the truth be told, that is exactly what happened.  And the impact of that death still affects Him today.

Jesus sacrifice started in the cradle.  It was on that day that God, the Word, the Son, took off divine robes and put on human flesh.  The kicker is that this was a one way trip.  He would either live forever in that form, or He would die in that form and continue on into eternity in that form.

The sacrifice is found in the fact that God altered His very being so that He could spend a few years with His creation in order to provide a way for Him to spend eternity with His creation.

The sacrifice is an eternal sacrifice.  The cross merely sealed it for Him and for us, but the incarnation was the real sacrifice for God.  God became man and dwelt among us.

When Jesus rises from the dead, He is seen in human form. Thomas recognizes Him by the scars in His hands, feet and side, John in Revelation sees the scars and describes Him as a “lamb that had been slaughtered”.  You never again see Jesus as He was before the incarnation. Never again is He just the “Word”.  He is flesh; He is bone; He is the Son. 

 


[i] Luke 24:39

[ii] John 20:27

[iii] Revelation 13:8

[iv] John 1:1

[v] Matthew 1:35-37

[vi] John 1:1

[vii] John 21:25

[viii] John 10:30

[ix] Matthew 26:36 et al

[x] Luke 3:21

[xi] Genesis 1:1-3

[xii] Isaiah 7:14

[xiii] John 1 and Philippians 2

[xiv] Luke 2:40,52

[xv] John 16:6-8


 [E1]Reference

 [E2]The Word

 [E3]Reference

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How to Pray in these Days

Posted by undergroundchurch on April 11, 2009


With so many things to pray about in these last days, it is important to concentrate on what’s truly important and eternal.

Prayers come in a variety of shapes and colors.  Some are of the bedtime variety where we ask God for blessing and protection.  Where God honors all prayer, these aren’t usually the most intimate and passionate.

Other more popular prayers usually fall in the personal request category. We want God to do something for us whether it is for relief from a headache or a better job.  Again, God honors all prayer, but remember, he doesn’t always grant us our desires because we don’t really know what’s best. 

God has three answers to prayer requests, “Yes, No and Wait”.  But I find that we get better answers when we pray, “Your will be done”.  These usually have a greater variety of answers and prove to be much more rewarding.

Still other prayers are directed for the benefit of others.  These are good prayers that are less “self-centered”.  Always remember when praying for others that God loves them more than you ever can.  Don’t underestimate His desire to work in people’s lives.

These are all good prayers, and they have their place, but won’t really get you anywhere with regards to the days to come.  So how do you pray?

You need to pray “according to God’s will” for it to be a guarantee (1 John 5:14).  This is the prayer Jesus prayed in the garden, “if it be your will, take this cup. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) If you notice, Jesus has two prayer requests here – only the one that was in line with God’s will was answered.

So what is His will in the last days? 

Pray for Revival

First, we know God is going to pour out his spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:28,29; Acts 2:17,18).  Remember that the last days are not over. Greater things are still to come.  Even greater things than the early church saw (John 1:50, 5:20).  To get there, we must pray for revival.  The church must step up and step out in the power of the Holy Spirit.  We must have a heart the earnestly seeks the Lord.  This will take sacrifice, time and lots of prayer.

Pray for Repentance

Second, and probably more important is prayer for repentance.  You can’t pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit without praying for repentence first.  God isn’t going to fill dirty vessels, just empty and broken vessels.

Prayer for Results

Finally, pray for results.  What results is God looking for?

  • Growth in numbers of people being saved- God is wanting all that are willing to come to Him. 
  • Growth in spiritual power – the church needs to have the power to walk the walk in the world that will be out to destroy them.  It is not going to get easier, and it will be more important than ever for us to walk daily in the power of the Holy Spirit.  “Sunday morning power” won’t be enough. It will need to be a daily infusion.
  • Increase in righteousness.  This sort of goes with repentence, but has more to do with making right choices.  There will be a falling away, and it will be crucial for us to make good choices under tough pressure.
  • Soon return.  Revelation ends with a prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20) He promises to return, and he encourages us to pray that he come soon.  Our greatest day will be when we see Jesus face to face.

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