Friday, May 31, 2013

Consuming Passion

Consuming Passion
Read: Nehemiah 1:1-11
When I heard this, I sat down and wept.  In fact, for days I mourned, fasted and prayed to the God of heaven.  (Nehemiah 1:4 NLT)
            One thing I admire about Nehemiah is his consuming passion for the people of Israel who were under extreme distress.  They were in danger from neighboring enemies because of the broken down walls and gates surrounding the city.  If something wasn’t done, the work on the temple would come to a screeching halt.
            John Wycliffe was another man with a consuming passion.  He wanted the common people in England to have a copy of the word of God in the English language.  In 1382, he began to translate the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English.  In the process, he gathered some poor priests (called Lollards) to preach the word to the masses.  He also used them as scribes to make copies of his English Bible beginning with the gospels.  It took them one year using a quill pen and ink to complete one copy.  The Roman church opposed his work and severely persecuted the Lollards.  Many were captured, tied up in chains, and burnt at the stake.  Wycliffe’s English Bible was completed early in 1384 whereupon he was condemned by the Roman church as a heretic.  John Wycliffe died on 31 December 1384 at Hipswell near Richmond, in Yorkshire, England.  He was so hated by the Roman Catholic Church that forty years later his bones were exhumed, burnt into ashes, and tossed into the river Swift. 
            Nehemiah’s consuming passion was to get the walls and gates surrounding Jerusalem rebuilt.  He prayed and made plans to execute his heart’s desires.  The biblical text reveals that Nehemiah’s desires were in line with God’s desires.  That is a sure fire recipe for success.
            What is your passion?  Everyone has one, you know.  Is it to gain fame and fortune, sports, reading, traveling, or Is it to reach your neighborhood, family, fellow workers, and those you meet in the marketplace with the gospel of Christ? 
Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8)
            Wherever you live is your Jerusalem.
Thought for the Day: Jesus’ passion was to “seek and save those who were lost.”
Prayer: Dear Lord, instill within me the passion to reach out to those around me with the good news of the gospel.
To do: Spend some time writing out your testimony; it is your greatest witnessing 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Word of Forgiveness

A Word of Forgiveness
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:24)
            As we stood by the cross on that fateful Friday morning, the words of the onlookers were raucous. 
            Those passing by hurled abuse at Him, wagging their heads and saying, “If you are the Son of God come down from the cross.”  (Matt. 27:40).   It wasn’t that he was powerless and couldn’t, but that he was in control and wouldn’t.
            The chief priests, scribes, and elders mocked him and said, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself.”  (Matt. 27:42a)
            They also scorned him by saying, “He is the King of Israel; let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in him.”  (Matt. 27:42b)
            They continued by saying, “He trusts in God; let God rescue him.”  (Matt. 27:43)
            The soldiers also mocked him, coming up to him, offering sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  (Luke 23:36).
            What do you make of this scene?  Have you ever heard anything more bitter, hateful, scornful, sarcastic, and irreverent?  Wasn’t the shame and humiliation enough?  Was the crown of thorns with blood running down his forehead into his eyes, and streaking his face and beard not sufficient? 
            Peter described the scene in a most dramatic fashion when he said, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate, when he suffered, he made no threats.”  (1 Peter 2:23a NIV)  Notice the intensity of the crowd.  They were out for blood.  They wanted not only to break his body; they wanted to break his spirit.  Doesn’t that reveal the evil intent of the heart of man?
            Kick a man when he’s down.  Add to his misery.  Pour salt into his wounds.  Make the crown of thorns sharper more piercing.  Belittle.  Humiliate.  What a hostile crowd! 
            Are we any different?  How many times have you said, “He made his own bed, let him sleep in it,” or “He’s only getting what he deserves.”  Did Jesus deserve this kind of treatment?  Was he ever guilty of a crime?  Where are his accusers?  Only false witnesses showed up at the trial.  No evidence was presented.  He wasn’t even allowed a defense.  Why is man so heartless?  So unforgiving.  So determined to punish the innocent.  You can be sure that Satan and his adversaries had their hand in the proceedings.  This was Satan’s last stand – his chance to wreck God’s plan.  He thought he won a victory, but in the end he lost the war. 
            This is not something new to many of you.  No doubt you’ve heard your share of ill-advised words.  Insults and lies were aimed at you.  You’ve been knocked to the ground by a slur or slip of the tongue.  You lie there beaten, wounded in spirit, harboring a broken heart.  Abandoned and left alone to suffer embarrassment and humiliation. 
            As we witness the scene, we see the true heart of God.  Jesus did not retaliate.  He did not say, “Come up here and say that to my face.”  He did not threaten to “get even.”  None of these statements came from his lips.
             Jesus uttered, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:24)
            Yes, on that Good Friday morning bitter words were hurled.  The verbal slurs were meant to hurt.  How could Jesus who was suffering excruciating pain respond with Words of Forgiveness is beyond me?  It just shows the depth of his love.  Truly the Cross was a picture of his Amazing Grace.