Thorn Thursday

A few years ago, a friend sent me a very good talk by Hal Lindsey called “The Week that Changed the World”. What Hal basically says is that rather than Jesus dying on Friday, He actually died on Thursday because there were two Sabbaths in a row that week – the Passover Sabbath and the regular, weekly Sabbath. I’ve been reading Mark’s gospel recently where we have an account of Palm Sunday, Monday, and up to Tuesday night, then it jumps to the Passover meal Jesus eats with His friends. Why shouldn’t that have taken place on Wednesday, followed the next day by His crucifixion?

There’s another reason I believe this – because Jesus Himself said: “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” (Matthew 12:40). Three days and three nights? Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, and on Sunday He rose again. It all makes sense, but we can witness to His death any time we like. The important thing is that we remember it. I have no problem doing that with other Christians on the Friday, even though I think it’s a day too late.

Because He wore that crown of thorns for us, maybe instead of Good Friday, we could have ‘Thorn Thursday’.

Timeless

“Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’

“Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM’” (John 8:57-58). Jesus was around before Abraham existed – before the world was even created.

A favourite songwriter of mine is Michael Card and in one of his songs, “The Final Word”, he tells us: “Eternity stepped into time.” The awesome thing is that one day, we’ll do it the other way round. We who were once constrained by time will step into eternity. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Time loses its importance when I understand things from a heavenly perspective. “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). Every earthly institution will be done away with. There’ll be nothing left except those things which are eternal.

Have you thought about where you’ll spend eternity? Because Jesus spoke about everyone rising from their graves – some to eternal condemnation and others to eternal life (John 5:28-29). Eternal life is knowing God, and knowing Jesus whom God has sent (John 17:3). If you believe Jesus is the Son of God, that life is yours, and you’ll spend not only time but the whole of eternity with Him.

Thoughts on Fathers’ Day

When I was very small and couldn’t sleep, it was my daddy I wanted, because those were the times he’d pick me up and walk me round the bedroom, singing this song, complete with whispers of my name when it said: “The wind will whisper your name to me”. Though it’s sweet to sing to a little girl about clinging to the warmth of her tiny hand, what means most is the fact that he sang to me, and how it reminds me of my heavenly Father. Zephaniah 3:17 says: “He will rejoice over you with singing”. I think of both God and my dad when I hear that verse.

Another special moment came much later, when I was an adult (probably about 19 or 20). I still lived with my parents, so we’d spend time together as a family, but it was rarely just my dad and me. One night though, we went to our favourite spring on the hills to get water, and Dad surprised me afterwards by asking if I wanted to go up the highest of the hills. This wasn’t a challenge for me; I’d climbed it lots of times, but I always enjoyed it. He drove to the side where a footpath would take us to the top, parked the car and off we went. We were still climbing at about 9:30 pm. It was getting dark, and I remember him saying if one of us fell and broke our ankle, the helicopter would have to come and rescue us! Spending time with people individually is one of my favourite things, and I feel better in my spirit when I spend time with God individually too.

I don’t know what this Fathers’ Day will be like for you. Thankfully, my dad’s still here and can read these words I’ve written about him, but I know not everyone’s in that position. Maybe your dad meant a lot to you and he’s not around anymore; why not thank God for a special memory you have of him? Maybe you never knew your dad and struggle to give him any sort of honour; could you thank God that your dad helped bring you into the world, and for the people who have shown you love in your lifetime? Maybe you are a dad, who’d like to have more contact with your children; take comfort from this verse: “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). As your heart is turned towards your children, you can pray that God will also turn their hearts towards you.

I pray you have a hope-filled Fathers’ Day.

An Elizabeth Barrett Browning Quote

“I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you.” What a beautiful quote.

As I thought about it, I challenged myself. Can I say that about God? “I love You not only for who You are, but for who I am when I’m with You?” If I love God and put Him first, I ought to be able to. The truth is that I often magnify my shortcomings when I’m with God in private, and when I’m with Him in a church-setting, the effort of having to mix with so many people at once is probably on my mind more than intimacy with God, but I decided this challenge would lead to a much happier life, so would you like to join me?

Let’s be filled with gratitude for the time we spend with God. Let’s smile when we hear Him speak into our hearts. Let’s want to bless Him and be always on the look-out for ways to praise Him. Let’s savour moments with Him and remember them for years to come, writing down important things He says and going back to reread them. Let’s truly say to God: “I love You not only for who You are, but for who I am when I am with You.”

Before the World Began

I saw a nativity on Facebook this afternoon. It was performed by some kids at a church in New Zealand. I liked it because of the way God was portrayed – compassionately looking at all the wrongdoing on earth; being sad that He was so far away from His kids; making a plan to step in; letting the angels sing because His heart was touched by their love for Jesus. It was incredibly sweet, but as I thought about it afterwards, I realised it was missing something.

And all these chronological Bibles that put the events in date-order for us, what do they start with? Genesis. I’ve never seen a Bible that starts with Ephesians chapter 1, but in his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul tells us something happened before Genesis. In Jesus, God chose us before the world was made. He had already decided to make us His children through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:4-5). That means in the run-up to the birth of Jesus, God wasn’t looking at the state of the world thinking: “’Oops. Not quite what I had in mind.”

The truth is that before we were even created, God knew about the first-ever disobedience and the tendency we’d have from then on towards wrongdoing, and He’d already planned that His Son Jesus would step in as our way back to Him.

The timeless God, knowing what would happen in time before time began. The God who loves us and looks for the best in us, knowing our worst and making provision for it. Doesn’t that fill you with awe and wonder?

Doubting his Calling?

I was reading the beginning of Acts 11 this morning, and it got me thinking. You know how in those stories you know really well, an earlier part can remind you of what happens later? Yeah, it was a bit like that.

I was reading about when Peter returned from telling the good news about Jesus to Cornelius and watching his household being filled with the Holy Spirit. Some people thought this good news should only be told to Jews, and Cornelius wasn’t a Jew, so Peter came in for a bit of criticism. Fresh from witnessing God’s power, this opposition didn’t faze him at all. You see, Peter himself had been reluctant to associate with non-Jews, but in Acts 10:9-20, God had shown him a vision of animals Jews were forbidden to eat and said: “Don’t call anything unclean which I have called clean.” So, Peter described the vision he’d had in the previous chapter as his reason for visiting Cornelius. Great! What a transformation!

But later on, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he writes that Peter ate with non-Jews, but when some strict Jews came along, he started to back away from them. In typical Paul fashion, Paul opposed Peter to his face ‘Because he stood condemned’. (I love how Paul confronts these issues.) Why did Peter stand condemned? Because God had already revealed how He wanted him to treat people: “Don’t call anything unclean which I have called clean”, but instead of being led by the Spirit of God, Peter was acting in fear – backing away from the non-Jews because he was afraid of those who were Jewish like himself.

What about the vision? What about the power God had given Peter to communicate with non-Jews? Perhaps it’s not dissimilar to that day in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent came along. “Did God really say …?” As time passes, it can be so easy to let doubt creep into our minds, but Paul tells us: “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Instead of walking in the flesh (in our fears or doubts), let’s walk according to God’s Spirit and be faithful to our callings.

Tuesday at Ten: Time

Well, I’m quite pleased because I can give a bit of a shout-out to not one, but two people through this post. Today is Tuesday, which means Karen’s back with her Tuesday at Ten linkup. This week, her prompt-word is: Time.
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So I’d like to tell you about a friend of mine, and how she spends her time. Alex has always been a quiet person one-to-one, but put her behind a microphone and she speaks with real authority, so I’m thrilled she’s using that voice of hers for God’s glory.

Alex spends three hours on a Wednesday, 6-9 pm here in the UK (that's 1-4 pm Eastern), playing music to praise God to on her radio-show – Worship Unlimited. I plugged her show when she first started broadcasting in 2011, and now three years later, you can find her on ACB Radio Interactive. This Internet radio-station showcases blind DJs from around the world, but Alex is listened to by people of all ages with very different musical tastes. One request might be a children’s song for a girl in her local church, the next a hip-hop song popular in Germany, or perhaps Alex’s personal favourite – Christian country. As long as it glorifies Jesus, she’ll play it.

Worship Unlimited now has a blog, Facebook page and Twitter account, giving you plenty of ways to connect, so why not spend a bit of time tomorrow night listening to Alex on ACB Interactive? Let’s see if we can make this a community, and not just a three-hour show.

Good Foundation

I listened to the radio yesterday morning while I washed the dishes, and was really struck by something a lady said.  She and the DJ were discussing couples, and how it was good for them to have time to themselves instead of being joined at the hip.  She said if you have two concrete pillars holding the roof on a structure and those pillars are too close together, that roof will fall.  Similarly, if they’re too far apart, the roof will also fall because its foundation isn’t good.  But if they’re just the right distance apart, then that roof will stay up.

 

Although they were talking about couples, I think this speaks to all of us.  If I depend on my family or friends to be happy, if I give them first place in my heart and think too highly of them, my life will fall apart.  If I distance myself from family and friends, if I have no need of them and there’s a wide chasm between us, then my life will also fall apart.  But if I give them their rightful place in my heart – Jesus at the centre (whom I depend on for my joy) and them second, then my life will remain secure because my Foundation is good.

 

What are the foundations like in your life?  Have you considered doing what the children’s song says – building your life on the Lord Jesus Christ?

Him and Us

We’re just the clay; You’re the One who fashions it.

We just live in time; You hold it in Your hand.

To us, things don’t make sense; You understand all things.

To us, our circumstances loom large; You see the bigger picture.

To us, the precious is something to cling to; You ask for our willingness to let go.

To us, letting go means surrendering control; to You, letting go is a compliment.

To us, letting go means trusting; You are completely trustworthy.

To us, letting go means denying ourselves; You want us to look beyond ourselves.

To us, our future is unfathomable; You know every moment in our eternity.

To us, eternity is an open door; You opened the Way for us to go through it.

To us who go through the door, the end is a new beginning.

To Him who burst out of the tomb, His end brought a new beginning – for Him, and for us.

Thank You, Jesus.

The Languages of Angels

Speech/language/words.  This week’s prompt from Kirsten gives me an excuse to tell you something I’ve just picked up on.  A bit of background:  I’ve read “The Five Love-Languages” before.  I didn’t see anything wrong with a single person reading a book about marriage, because I thought the lessons I learnt from it could be helpful in other relationships, such as friendships.  The author obviously agrees because he’s now written editions specifically for men, single adults and parents.  I haven’t read those, but the book “God Speaks Your Love-Language:  How to Feel and Reflect God’s Love” intrigued me.  I thought:  How can we express our love to God in the language of physical touch, when He’s not physically present with us?  So I read the book, and the small-group study guide at the end pointed me to 1 Corinthians 13:

“I may speak in different languages of people or even angels” (verse 1).  I wondered:  If God speaks our love-language, is it possible that angels speak the five love-languages, too?  Suddenly, into my mind came these examples.

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Words of Affirmation:  These were spoken to Gideon.  “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!” (Judges 6:12).  The angel Gabriel also used them when he visited Mary.  “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God” (Luke 1:30).

Quality Time:  In Genesis 18:1-22, angels spent quality time with Abraham before their visit to Sodom.  He even washed their feet and gave them a meal!

Gifts:  In 1 Kings 19:5-8, an angel came to Elijah with gifts of bread and water at a time when he was weak and tired.

Acts of Service:  Hebrews tells us that angels are serving spirits, and they served Jesus in the wilderness when He’d finished being tempted by the devil.  In one of my favourite books, “Appointment in Jerusalem”, an angel carries Lydia’s toddler to safety.

Physical Touch:  In the garden at Gethsemane, an angel strengthened Jesus.  In my other favourite book, “The Shaming of the Strong”, an angel calms five-year-old Amelia when she’s lost in a storm.  An angel appeared to two of my friends when they were struggling financially.

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Can you think of Biblical or modern-day examples of angels speaking the five love-languages – words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch?  Have you ever thought which of these makes you, or someone close to you, feel most loved?